CMJ Colloquium: “Derivative Sport: The Journalistic Legacy of David Foster Wallace”
Joshua Roiland, CLAS-Honors Preceptor of Journalism and Assistant Professor, Communication and Journalism
University of Maine
When the writer David Foster Wallace died in the fall of 2008, he was mourned as “the most brilliant American writer of his generation.” Most of the posthumous praise focused on his fiction, especially the 1079-page novel Infinite Jest. But Wallace was also a celebrated journalist and nonfiction writer who published stories and essays in Harper’s, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and The Atlantic, and won the National Magazine Award in 2001. This talk examines Wallace’s legacy in the world of literary journalism. It is predominately in nonfiction where critics have noted how Wallace’s style, subject matter, and voice have been emulated and appropriated. I’ll share these critical comparisons along with discussions I’ve had with several of today’s leading nonfiction writers, including John Jeremiah Sullivan, Leslie Jamison, Jeff Sharlet, and Michelle Orange, many of whom admired Wallace, but most of whom shrink from comparisons to him. I’ll present their thoughts on how Wallace has influenced them along with textual comparisons between his work and theirs.
424 Dunn Hall