Post-postmodernist Esthetics of Irrelevance: Textual Disability as Narrative Prosthesis (The Lin/Wallace Connection)

Fernandez-Santiago, Miriam; Chapman, Ana

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The present article explores Tao Lin's Alt Lit novel Taipei (2013) as a hallmark in a post-postmodernist esthetic continuum that was first theorized by David Foster Wallace in "E Unibus Pluram" (1993), and later instantiated in Infinite Jest (1996). In both novels, the exhaustion of postmodernist esthetics envisioned by Wallace is depicted through a dystopian representation of the prosthetic use of analogical and digital media in the construction of human subjectivity inasmuch as it precludes sincere and meaningful connection with others. In both Wallace's early vision of post-postmodernism and Lin's later Alt Lit remediation of Wallace's proposal, their prosthetically enhanced texts rely heavily on the technologically induced disability of their characters. Drug and technology abuse, self-conscious narcissism, and existential irrelevance are matched by an exposure of human vulnerability to and through media that reinstates the narrative purposefulness, relevance and direction of these forms of post-postmodernist esthetics that Wallace envisioned beyond the exhaustion of postmodernism. In both cases, however, the exposure or transparency of media itself is questioned as a calculated risk interfering with and/or enabling (Lin) this esthetic project, signaling a change between the second and third digital generations of post-postmodernist writers.

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