RCID student Kate Hanzalik’s essay “David Foster Wallace’s Disappearance” has been accepted and published in the interdisciplinary journal Writing From Below, volume 3, issue 1. She describes her work below:
“‘David Foster Wallace’s Disappearance’ is a ficto-critical text that is as much about form as it is content. On the one hand, the academic essay applies Foucault’s theories about authorship, discipline, and the panopticon to interpret DFW’s experiences as an author. If, as Foucault says, authoring is the only real act of escape, then how do we account for writerly rules determined by readerly expectations? And how should we interpret DFW’s act of suicide during his writing of The Pale King? Was his suicide the ultimate escape? On the other hand, the short story critiques the genre of the short story, particularly marvelous, dramatic, and realist techniques. The plot is based upon a series of incidents leading up to DFW’s suicide as well as revisions to the Author’s Foreword of The Pale King. All the author wants is to finish writing The Pale King, but as he works from draft one toward draft six, he becomes increasingly anxious and depressed. Meanwhile, DFW’s character, David Wallace, emerges amidst editorial marks (i.e. violent derangements and slashes) to help DFW find a way out of the Panopticon. I use the plot to work through questions such as: Why is ‘good’ fiction the kind of fiction that follows formal rules? Why must writers meet their readers’ expectations? Why are postmodern or unconventional short stories so appalling to some people? The same questions can be asked of academic writing.
I am thrilled that Writing From Below accepted the piece. Initially, I wrote it for a collection about ‘introverts in an extrovert world,’ but when the editor read it, she said: ‘This thing is not accessible.’ And I thought, why don’t academics value showing instead of telling? Why don’t fiction writers value telling instead of showing? So, I decided not to revise it. Not that I am too proud to accept a valid critique; I simply couldn’t scrap up the most ‘acceptable’ academese for the purpose of writing a formulaic journal article that someone else might like. That doesn’t seem honest to me. Writing From Below is a perfect fit because the journal publishes articles that challenge academic conventions.
Who knew the process of integrating sources could be so interesting. I had to request DFW’s draft material from the Harry Ransom Center at the UT Austin Archives. DFW’s scribbles and side notes and the smiley-face stickers in the margins were fascinating and hilarious. It was exciting to see David Wallace, and DFW, slowly emerge amidst all different kinds of paper and miscellaneous editing marks. All of that helped me understand the author more, which helped me understand his story and my essay more, which in turn made writing this piece worthwhile and meaningful.
DFW died before The Pale King was published. He struggled as he wrote the Author’s Foreword. I think all writers can identify with the challenges he faced, getting caught up in meeting other peoples’ expectations, struggling to find joy in the process of writing. I find him inspiring and I hope you will too.”