In this essay I propose to look at the imaginary film Infinite Jest, described in the homonymous novel by David Foster Wallace, interpreting it as a postmodern rewriting of the ancient topos of the killing vision. In the novel, Infinite Jest is a film realized by the brilliant physicist and “après-garde” filmmaker James O. Incandenza. It is so entertaining, and so great is the pleasure it provides, that whoever watches Infinite Jest dies, unwilling to stop the screening. Within the symbolic perimeter traced by the film Infinite Jest, two themes fundamental to Wallace’s novel are developed: the first is about the disturbing addiction to narcotic substances of the most varied type, endemic to contemporary society (a theme which, in the novel, ultimately turns out to be a radical criticism of Jacque Lacan’s thinking); the second regards the unlimited power that images hold in postmodern culture. Both themes merge in a dense rewriting of the topos of the killing vision. I shall individuate the origins of this topos in Greek myth, then briefly trace its development in the Western arts, highlighting some of its modern and postmodern articulations. After outlining the core features of the film Infinite Jest, with reference to an episode narrated by Giorgio Vasari in his Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, and to cinematographic reinterpretations of the topos of the killing vision (one the most significant of which is David Cronenberg’s Videodrome), I shall propose a definition of the topos as a figure of modern and postmodern scopic complexity. While embodying a quintessentially anti-ocularcentric discourse—particularly influential in postmodernity, as Martin Jay has shown, but, as Stuart Clark has recently argued, a discourse that is not as marginal to modernity as it is generally reputed to be—, the topos of the killing vision magnifies the power of vision, presenting itself as the dialectical image of the opposing forces of ocularcentrism and anti-ocularcentrism that collide within the modern and postmodern visual spheres. In this sense, the topos of the killing vision can be defined as a figure of visual totality.

The Killing Vision: David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest"

ERCOLINO S
2016

Abstract

In this essay I propose to look at the imaginary film Infinite Jest, described in the homonymous novel by David Foster Wallace, interpreting it as a postmodern rewriting of the ancient topos of the killing vision. In the novel, Infinite Jest is a film realized by the brilliant physicist and “après-garde” filmmaker James O. Incandenza. It is so entertaining, and so great is the pleasure it provides, that whoever watches Infinite Jest dies, unwilling to stop the screening. Within the symbolic perimeter traced by the film Infinite Jest, two themes fundamental to Wallace’s novel are developed: the first is about the disturbing addiction to narcotic substances of the most varied type, endemic to contemporary society (a theme which, in the novel, ultimately turns out to be a radical criticism of Jacque Lacan’s thinking); the second regards the unlimited power that images hold in postmodern culture. Both themes merge in a dense rewriting of the topos of the killing vision. I shall individuate the origins of this topos in Greek myth, then briefly trace its development in the Western arts, highlighting some of its modern and postmodern articulations. After outlining the core features of the film Infinite Jest, with reference to an episode narrated by Giorgio Vasari in his Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, and to cinematographic reinterpretations of the topos of the killing vision (one the most significant of which is David Cronenberg’s Videodrome), I shall propose a definition of the topos as a figure of modern and postmodern scopic complexity. While embodying a quintessentially anti-ocularcentric discourse—particularly influential in postmodernity, as Martin Jay has shown, but, as Stuart Clark has recently argued, a discourse that is not as marginal to modernity as it is generally reputed to be—, the topos of the killing vision magnifies the power of vision, presenting itself as the dialectical image of the opposing forces of ocularcentrism and anti-ocularcentrism that collide within the modern and postmodern visual spheres. In this sense, the topos of the killing vision can be defined as a figure of visual totality.
Imaginary Films in Literature
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/3708520
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