25 Years of Infinite Jest: The (After)Lives and Influences of the Work of David Foster Wallace

Allard den Dulk's picture
October 28, 2021 to October 30, 2021
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Literature, Philosophy, Cultural History / Studies, Film and Film History



25 Years of Infinite Jest:

The (After)Lives and Influences of the Work of David Foster Wallace

VU University Amsterdam and Amsterdam University College (The Netherlands)

28-30 October 2021



From Thursday 28 to Saturday 30 October 2021, VU University Amsterdam and Amsterdam University College (The Netherlands) will host the annual International David Foster Wallace Conference, entitled “25 Years of Infinite Jest: The (After)Lives and Influences of the Work of David Foster Wallace” (DFW2021).


This interdisciplinary conference, while centered on the work of American novelist David Foster Wallace (1962-2008), specifically wants to explore the impact of Wallace’s work in and beyond (American) literature.




In 2021 it is 25 years ago that Wallace’s magnum opus Infinite Jest (1996) was published. Since that publication, Wallace’s work, and Infinite Jest specifically, – with its perceived call to move beyond postmodern irony toward new forms of sincerity – has come to be regarded as a significant influence on developments throughout the arts, including film, tv, media, and popular music. Wallace has become a main reference point in debates throughout the Humanities on what comes “after postmodernism” – “post-postmodernism,” “new sincerity,” “metamodernism,” et cetera – and can also be related to discussions about the need for new directions in Humanities scholarship – such as “post-theory,” “post-critique,” and “surface reading.” The social mission of art as well as debates about gender, race, ethnicity, and disability are key concerns in studying Wallace’s work, its influences, and the cultural changes that have taken place in the meantime, 25 years after Infinite Jest.


At DFW2021, our goal is to further conversations on Wallace and on developments that might be related to – but not limited to or even mainly focused on – Wallace’s work. We want the conference to transcend the traditional single-author focus.


Potential paper topics


Papers commenting on any aspect of Wallace’s work, thought, influence, or context are invited. Potential topics include but are not limited to:

  • (re)considerations of established lines of thinking about Wallace’s work, 25 years after Infinite Jest (e.g., irony and sincerity, entertainment, addiction, et cetera).
  • new aesthetic “sensibilities” that might be related to Wallace’s work: post-postmodernism, new sincerity, metamodernism, et cetera – what are their shared and/or different determinative characteristics and effects, in different media?
  • contemporary films and tv series: e.g. what is the role of self-consciousness and sincerity, of explicit artifice and immersive affect in the works of Charlie Kaufman, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, Miranda July, Lena Dunham, Greta Gerwig, and others?
  • visual arts and popular music: how might the above developments and sensibilities be seen to manifest in these media?
  • the work of contemporary authors that can be fruitfully related to Wallace, such as: Zadie Smith, Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, Ben Lerner, George Saunders, Junot Diaz, Colson Whitehead, Porochista Khakpour, and Elif Batuman; or authors outside English-language literature – such as Édouard Louis, Roberto Bolaño, Arnon Grunberg, Clemens Setz, or Felicitas Hoppe.
  • Wallace and/or the above works in relation to race and/or socioeconomic class.
  • Wallace and/or the above works in relation to gender, masculinity, misogyny, and sexualities.
  • Wallace and/or the above works in relation to climate change, the Anthropocene.
  • Politics, philosophy and/or religion in Wallace and/or the above works, developments, and sensibilities.
  • Global perspectives on Wallace and/or the above works, developments, and sensibilities
  • Wallace, canonicity, and critical perspectives.
  • any under-discussed aspects of Wallace and/or the above works, developments, and sensibilities.


The conference organization is committed to promoting and fostering greater inclusion of women scholars, scholars of color, and otherwise historically underrepresented scholars in the fields under discussion at this conference, and welcomes proposals that specifically engage these issues.


We encourage submissions from established scholars as well as postdoctoral researchers, currently unaffiliated scholars, contingent faculty, faculty in settings other than higher education, and graduate and undergraduate students. Full panel proposals are welcome as well. We encourage panels that span a variety of faculty ranks and institutions.


Submission deadline and process


Submit paper abstracts of 300 words (for a max. 20-minute presentation) and brief biographical info to dfwconference2021@gmail.com by May 15, 2021. Include in your submission your name, affiliation (if any), and email address. Please specify any special AV or scheduling needs when submitting your proposal.


We intend to communicate decisions on paper selection before the 1st of July, 2021.


Location and events


On Thursday 28 and Friday 29 October, the conference panels will be held at the VU University Amsterdam (De Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam), and on Saturday 30 October at Amsterdam University College (Science Park 113, Amsterdam). Next to the academic keynotes, we also plan to organize a public keynote lecture (speaker to be announced) in collaboration with the John Adams Institute. Additionally, the conference will include social events at different locations in the beautiful city of Amsterdam.


Conference Chair: dr. Allard den Dulk


For more info, go to: www.dfwsociety.org/dfw2021


This conference is supported by the CLUE+ Research Institute, The Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis (NICA) and the John Adams Institute (JAI).

Contact Info: 

Conference Chair: dr. Allard den Dulk