I just sent off the last new chapter that I’ll be writing for this dissertation to my committee. What remains is an introduction and a lot of revision, but it’s very exciting to be approaching the end of a long, lonely road.
The chapter looks at two younger writers, David Foster Wallace and Junot Díaz, and argues that they both have carved out special positions for themselves through style. Each engages with the idea of the “nerd,” which is a figure I’ve had trouble finding a lot of secondary literature on. There’s some overlap with fans and media studies work on online communities, but the nerd is different, and it’s a word Díaz in particular has used to describe himself and his work. What’s interesting is that the two writers started with the same basic objection to the problems of what Wallace calls “Standard Written English” and came up with radically different solutions. Wallace pushed the envelope with footnotes and postmodern stylistic games; Díaz broke new ground in integrating English, Spanish, and many other cultural and genre dialects, making what he calls the bedrock fact of “unintelligibility” a central part of his fiction.