Despite having expanded an initial focus upon his most renowned novel Infinite Jest (1996) in recent years, David Foster Wallace studies has yet to broach questions regarding the textual status of Wallace’s work. In order to do so, this essay applies the methodology of genetic criticism by studying the composition of Wallace’s short story ‘The Depressed Person’. Genetic criticism involves the practical analysis of manuscripts or rough drafts with the aim of describing a process of writing, a text’s genesis. By treating text as process rather than product, genetic criticism subverts the traditional notion of “the text itself”. Wallace’s fiction shares a similar resistance to finished products. This is particularly true of the post-Infinite Jest phase in Wallace’s career, which begins with Brief Interviews With Hideous Men (1999), in which the ‘The Depressed Person’ is collected, and ends, emphatically, with Wallace’s unfinished and posthumously published final novel The Pale King (2011); the text of which exists only in draft form. Using genetic criticism, this essay goes on to consider the relationship between Wallace’s writing process and the eponymous depressed person’s predicament in the story, considering the significance of these topics within a broader context of modernism and revision.


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pp. 79-99
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