Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Jillmarie Murphy

Second Advisor

Anastasia Pease




irony, novel, sincerity, wallace, american


Throughout his literary career, David Foster Wallace articulated the problems associated with the profusion of irony in contemporary society. In this thesis I assert that his novel Infinite Jest promotes a shift from the reliance on irony and subversion to a celebration of the principles of sincerity. The emphasis on sincerity makes Infinite Jest a landmark novel in the canon of American fiction, as Wallace employs postmodern formal techniques, such as irony, metafiction, fragmentation, and maximalism, in the interest of promoting traditional, non-ironic values of emotion, community, and spirituality. I draw from works of postmodern theory and criticism to bolster my argument that the novel both engages with and transcends the conventions of postmodernism. Through the emotional dilemmas of numerous characters, Wallace illustrates how irony no longer serves a constructive purpose in literature and society, thus asserting the urgency of a shift toward traditional values of sincerity in American fiction.