White Guys: Questioning Infinite Jest's New Sincerity

Joel Roberts, Edward Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article questions the idea that David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest instigates new forms of sincerity. We begin by scrutinizing the theoretical underpinnings of Adam Kelly’s influential reading of such ‘New Sincerity’. Firstly, we argue that this theory misconstrues Jacques Derrida’s notions of iterability and undecidability. It does so in order to corral their implications within an elitist understanding of the ‘literary’ text. Secondly, we argue that Kelly’s reading ignores how Infinite Jest’s supposed New Sincerity is geared exclusively towards the novel’s white male characters. Through close readings of the novel’s often celebrated AA scenes, and by drawing on the work of political and cultural theorist Denise Ferreira da Silva, we then show how this process works at the expense of black and female characters. By
addressing how forms of racist and sexist exclusion constitute the novel’s apparent New Sincerity, we argue that this reading works to restore white men to positions of representative cultural authority.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrbit: A Journal of American Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use,
distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See


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