UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Saying God with a straight face : towards an understanding of Christian soteriology in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest Laird, David Gordon


This thesis considers the intersections between David Foster Wallace’s 1996 novel Infinite Jest and Pauline notions of Christian soteriology articulated in the New Testament. In my analysis, I argue that the novel presents a worldview that demonstrates a theological dialogue with biblical concepts of fallenness, human value, and redemption, most powerfully embodied in the main characters Hal Incandenza, Don Gately, and Mario Incandenza. Of the novel’s sweeping cast of characters, these three particularly capture a range of salvation states akin to a Pauline understanding of the human condition, calling to attention the influence of orthodox Christian theology on the novel. This dialogue is considered through the lens of postmodernism and the New Sincerity movement in contemporary U.S. fiction, and offers that the novel urges readers to countenance what it means to be human living amidst the binary tensions of sin and salvation, reinvigorating a traditional understanding of grace and redemption in a present and prophetic way.

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