“Observacion of these Articles”: surveillance and the 1970s in David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King

West, M. (2018) “Observacion of these Articles”: surveillance and the 1970s in David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, 59(2), pp. 223-234. (doi:10.1080/00111619.2017.1360833)

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.

Abstract

This essay argues that critics have overlooked the importance of the 1970s in David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. Critical focus on the novel’s depiction of 1980s neoliberalism downplays the way it asks readers to consider that decade’s changes to be dependent on the transformation of civic ideals in the 1970s. This can be seen most clearly in Chris Fogle’s narrative, which this essay argues is an emblematic 1970s story, incorporating the decade’s tropes of malaise, uncertainty, self-examination, and surveillance. While Fogle’s conversion from selfish student to IRS worker may be seen to run counter to the growth of individualism and suspicion of institutions in the 1970s, this essay argues that Wallace uses it to revive and ventriloquize arguments about civic-mindedness that took place in the 1970s, ultimately offering a definition of civic-mindedness that echoes the work of writers such as Christopher Lasch and Robert N. Bellah.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Literature and literary theory.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:West, Mr Mark
Authors: West, M.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Journal Name:Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction
Publisher:Taylor and Francis
ISSN:0011-1619
ISSN (Online):1939-9138
Published Online:08 September 2017

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record