David Foster Wallace and the Body is the first full-length study to focus on Wallace’s career-long fascination with the human body and the textual representation of the body. The book provides engaging, accessible close readings that highlight the importance of the overlooked, and yet central theme of all of this major American author’s works: having a body. Wallace repeatedly made clear that good fiction is about what it means to be a ‘human being’. A large part of what that means is having a body, and being conscious of the conflicts that arise, morally and physically, as a result; a fact with which, as Wallace forcefully and convincingly argues, we all desire ‘to be reconciled’. Given the ubiquity of the themes of embodiment in Wallace’s work, this study is an important addition to an expanding field. The book also opens up the themes addressed to interrogate aspects of contemporary literature, culture, and society more generally, placing Wallace’s works in the history of literary and philosophical engagements with the brute fact of embodiment.

chapter |17 pages


It is at the Level of the Body that We Proceed

chapter 1|23 pages

Corporeal Punishment

The Body as Agent (Provocateur)

chapter 2|28 pages

Écorché Style

David Foster Wallace’s Anatomical Poetics

chapter 3|26 pages

Frantic Pistons and Yielding Curves

Gender and the (Com)modification of Desire

chapter 4|24 pages

Hideously Defective

Disfigurement, Disability, and ‘Crip Humour’

chapter 5|28 pages

Weak Evils

The Ageing Body

chapter 6|24 pages

So Much Vapor Aloft

Drugs, (Idio-)Disincarnation, and Idio-Metempsychosis

chapter |9 pages


It is at the Level of the Body that We Conclude