1st Edition

The Fact of the Cage Reading and Redemption In David Foster Wallace’s "Infinite Jest"

By Karl A. Plank Copyright 2021
    204 Pages
    by Routledge

    204 Pages
    by Routledge

    David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest raised expectations of what a novel might do. As he understood fiction to aim at what it means to be human, so he hoped his work might relieve the loneliness of human suffering. In that light, The Fact of the Cage shows how Wallace’s masterpiece dramatizes the condition of encagement and how it comes to be met by "Abiding" and through inter-relational acts of speaking and hearing, touching, and facing. Revealing Wallace’s theology of a "boneless Christ," The Fact of the Cage wagers that reading such a novel as Infinite Jest makes available to readers the redemption glimpsed in its pages, that reading fiction has ethical and religious significance—in short, that reading Infinite Jest makes one better. As such, Plank’s work takes steps to defend the ethics of fiction, the vital relation between religion and literature, and why one just might read at all.

    Introduction: In Praise of One Good Reading

    1. Reading to Become Better: An Approach to Infinite Jest

    2. The Predicament of Encagement

    3. Contending with the Cage: Abiding and Breaking Through

    4. The Redemption of Boneless Christs

    5. The Redemption of the Reader


    Karl A. Plank is the J.W. Cannon Professor of Religious Studies at Davidson College, USA. The author of Paul and the Irony of Affliction and Mother of the Wire Fence: Inside and Outside the Holocaust, he has published studies in journals such as Religion and Literature, Literature and Theology, Anglican Theological Review, and Cistercian Studies.

    "This is a book that celebrates and educates us in the art of good reading of good texts. It is a joy to read and its scholarship is superlative." David Jasper, Professor of Literature and Theology, University of Glasgow.



    "In The Fact of the Cage, Karl A. Plank interprets Wallace as he wanted to be interpreted: with critical passion and with a very keen eye for ethical concerns. This eloquent book offers sharp close-readings, new philosophical contexts, and well-grounded answers to whether and how time spent with Infinite Jest can help make us better people." Jeffrey Severs, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia, and author of David Foster Wallace’s Balancing Books: Fictions of Value.



    "Can reading well help make you a better person? Numerous writers and critics have intimated that it can — perhaps none with more passion and more sorrow than David Foster Wallace. In The Fact of the Cage, Karl Plank explores with both curiosity and care the possibilities that wrestling with Wallace’s own writing might open up. The result is a powerful volume that is attentive both to the literary condition and to the human condition, both to the opportunities for ethical reflection that the novel may be uniquely able to facilitate as well as to the difficult work asked of the reader who seeks in reading a form of redemption." Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Digital Humanities and Professor of English, Michigan State University