Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Calvin Thomas

Second Advisor

Dr. Christopher Kocela

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul Schmidt


Scholarship on David Foster Wallace understandably tends to focus on addiction in his novel Infinite Jest, as well as on his stated desire for a literary movement that transcends the recursive, ironic loop of the postmodern. This essay, however, explores issues of trauma and perversion in Wallace's fiction – primarily beginning with Infinite Jest, chronologically speaking – demonstrating Wallace's concern with the freedom of choice. A palpable friction exists between conservatism and sexual taboos, and this friction characterizes much, if not most, of Wallace's fictional oeuvre. A principally psychoanalytic reading of the sexual elements at play in Infinite Jest, as well as in several stories from Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and Oblivion, cultivates a more thorough understanding of the addiction theme present in his work.