In Kierkegaard's view, an individual is not automatically a self but has to become one. A human being merely embodies the possibility of becoming a self. For Kierkegaard, there is no "true core" that an individual already "is" or "has" and that underlies selfhood. Becoming a self is the task of human life [...]
The tragic fate of the aesthete raises the question: how can the individual liberate himself from the ironic-aesthetic attitude and realize a meaningful life? Kierkegaard's answer is deceptively simple: by choosing. In Either/Or, the ethicist affirms that "the ethical constitutes the choice" and that this choice is "the main concern in life, you can win yourself, gain yourself" [...] The aesthetic life is characterized by not-choosing; the aesthete wants to retain his negative freedom. To overcome the empty despair in which this life-view runs aground, the negative freedom established through irony should be followed, as mentioned above, by taking up the responsibility to give shape and meaning to one's life, thereby realizing a positive freedom. This is the choice that, for Kierkegaard, characterizes the ethical life view.
referring to the father of the contortionist boy from TPK, who became addicted to seduction (405)
Choice is always an action in which the individual connects to reality, to the world. Choice always means taking responsibility for a certain commitment to the world. And it is through that choice, through that connection to reality, in consciousness transcending itself toward the world, that the self emerges.
i love reading literary criticism not expecting much but then coming across something like this. this is what i live for
This emphasis on the importance of what is right in front of of our noses is a central theme in Wallace's work (cf. This is Water). Like existentialism, it is about the experience of concrete human existence. One of the more valuable things that Wallace's fiction can contribute to our philosophical understanding of the current age is that it points out the real world and urges us to pay attention to it, to commit to it, and thereby, to become ourselves.
Among Wallace's notes for The Pale King are scattered references to Walker Percy's nonfiction, specifically to his volume The Message in the Bottle [...] the essay from Percy's book that most directly engages with The Pale King is "The Man on the Train" [...]
Percy begins the essay by identifying his focus upon the "literature of alienation", which is of course the title of a class Fogle takes (184). But Percy's argument is that this body of literature is, in fact, an inverted category.
In this imaginative union, I'd suggest, there's a clear precedent for Wallace's own belief in fiction's ability to invert loneliness [...]
read his stuff. about aesthetic reversal of alienation (diff between an alienated person, and someone reading about an alienated person; the latter is able to transcend the alienation)
An even more damning comment on this older existential discourse occurs in the middle of Chris Fogle's story of personal conversion from “wastoid" to IRS devotee and wiggler. Fogle describes taking, ironically enough, a "Literature of Alienation" course during his "nihilistic" years at Fogle's failure to get through Camus' The Fall is partly ironic in and of itself, but his ability "to totally bullshit my way through the Literature of Alienation midterm" (186-7) suggests that there is something outdated or cliched about "alienation" and existential thought in the postmodern era. Whether or not the "B" Fogle received on the exam is really indicative of "a meaningless bullshit response to meaningless bullshit" (187), it does reveal the limitations of any literature of alienation. Instead of finding something of value in existentialist literature (for which, considering his nihilistic outlook on life at the time, he would appear primed), the younger Fogle finds it a waste of time and can easily mimic its familiar discourse.
In using the IRS as representative of neoliberalism in general, The Pale King is able to connect neoliberalism back to boredom in an illuminating way. This becomes evident when David Wallace remarks that "[t]he real reason why US citizens were/are not aware of these conflicts, changes, and stakes is that the whole subject of tax policy and administration is dull. Massively, spectacularly dull" (83). Thus it is that boredom and apathy become a kind of political tool, or a sure bet to manufacture consent, since "if sensitive issues of governance can be made sufficiently dull and arcane, there will be no need for officials to hide or dissemble, because no one not directly involved will pay enough attention to cause trouble" (84). It would seem, then, that choosing not to pay attention to such "boring" things as political and economic issues does not mean one will lead a life "free" of constraint, but that one will pay off this debt with the freedoms that were granted long ago.
basically neoliberalism crept up on us under cover of boredom
[...] I believe that "Westward"'s fictional project should instead be read as, if not as accomplishing, then at least pointing toward a relationship to irony that is anti-eschatological, that acknowledges irony's fundamental "temporality that is not organic," and that it "allows for no end, for no totality." In other words, Wallace's mode of getting metafiction's Armageddon-explosion "over with," is based on an acknowlegment that not only can there not be such an explosion, but that the whole aesthetic approach that privileges such an eschatology is not only problematic, but threatening. [...]
First of all, we can say that today's writing has freed itself from the theme of expression. Referring only to itself, but without being restricted to the confines of its interiority, writing is identified with its own unfolded exteriority. This means that it is an interplay of signs arranged less according to its signified content than according to the very nature of the signifier. Writing unfolds like a game that invariably goes beyond its own rules and transgresses its limits. In writing, the point is not to manifest or exalt the act of writing, nor is it to pin a subject within language; it is, rather, a question of creating a space into which the writing subject constantly disappears.
The first is the idea of the work [oeuvre]. It is a very familiar thesis that the task of criticism is not to bring out the work's relationships with the author, nor to reconstruct through the text a thought or experience, but rather to analyze the work through its structure, its architecture, its intrinsic form, and the play of its internal relationships. At this point, however, a problem arises: What is a work? What is this curious unity which we designate as a work? Of what elements is it composed? Is it not what an author has written? Difficulties appear immediately. If an individual were not an author, could we say that what he wrote, said, left behind in his papers, or what has been collected of his remarks, could be called a "work"? When Sade was not considered an author, what was the status of his papers? Simply rolls of paper onto which he ceaselessly uncoiled his fantasies during his imprisonment.