A short story addressing the ways in which irony has led to a growing sense of alienation in American culture is next to appear in West Texas A&M University’s Great Books series.
Dr. Ryan Brooks, Assistant Professor of English in the Department of English, Philosophy and Modern Languages at WT, will lead the discussion on “Good Old Neon” by David Foster Wallace, from his “Oblivion” collection.
“Wallace argued that postmodern irony had been co-opted by television advertisers and served to isolate and divide viewers, contributing to a loss of community in American life,” Brooks said. “This created new challenges for American fiction writers who were influenced by postmodernism but who did not want to contribute to this growing cynicism and alienation. “Good Old Neon” illustrates how he has approached these issues in his own fiction, in a way that forces the reader to face these issues as well. “
The story also explicitly deals with depression and suicide, Brooks said.
“It took on a new level of inevitable meaning after Wallace’s suicide in 2008, especially since much of the story can be read as autobiographical,” Brooks said. “It will also raise other points of discussion, such as the question of how we should think about the relationship between the artist and his art.”
The discussion series – sponsored by the Department of English, Philosophy and Modern Languages - is open to those who have or haven’t read the book, said the organizer, Dr. Daniel Bloom, associate professor of philosophy. .
“Everyone is welcome,” Bloom said. “Usually we start with an introduction to the presenter’s text, and then the meeting turns into a group discussion. Each meeting is different, depending on the text we are discussing and the interests of the audience.
WT professors and guest speakers lead the monthly discussions.
The series began in 2011 and traditionally takes place in person on the second Tuesday of the month at Burrowing Owl Books, 7406 SW 34th Ave., Suite 2B, in Amarillo. He switched to Zoom during the Covid-19 pandemic; a return to in-person meetings is expected in 2021.
Previous discussions have centered on Plato’s “Republic”, “Letter from Birmingham Prison” from Dr Martin Luther King Jr., “Olalla” by Robert Louis Stevenson, “El Sur” by Jorge Luis Borges and more.
To register for the August discussion, email Bloom at [email protected]
The series is a means by which WT serves the region by providing engagement with a variety of literary and philosophical texts. Being a learner-centered university is a key principle of the University’s long-term plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.
-West Texas A&M University