Friday, March 26, 2010

DFW in the Margins

Here you can look through David Foster Wallace's comments on a student paper about Cormac McCarthy's Suttree.

One highlight: Wallace underlines the word problematize and notes, "This is a bullshit academic word. Shun it. Fly it. Trust me," a comment that wittily alludes to the final line of Suttree. In his later comments, Wallace at least twice uses the word problematize himself (though he puts scare quotes around it) to critique the student's own assertions.

Overall, I like the image of Wallace that comes through his comments. He seems like a decent human being with a good sense of humor, and I'm impressed that he gave such time and attention to this guy's paper—balancing criticism with lots of encouragement. He also balances grammatical corrections with commentary on the content of the paper.

In the end, Wallace pronounces the essay "Magnificent" and gives it an A+++. He then assigns a penalty for "syntax, grandiloquence" and knocks the grade down to an A+.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Very cool.

Vereen Bell, cited on page 4 and in the Works Cited, was my absolute favorite professor at Vanderbilt, and the guy I visited last spring on the way home from South Carolina. We stayed in Knoxville the night before. I have to read Suttree.

Thanks for the post.