Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Marino, James J.

Subject Headings

Wallace, David Foster, Infinite jest -- Criticism and interpretation, Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616, Hamlet -- Criticism and interpretation, Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 -- Philosophy, Hamlet, infinite jest, ethics, language arts, philosophy, spirituality, theater studies, therapy


Infinite Jest has been viewed by champions of its cause as a solution to the defeatist irony of postmodernism and by critics as a postmodern gag in which the reader falls victim to intellectual "jest." Exploring the text's initial affiliations with Hamlet is a fundamental move toward stabilizing Infinite Jest's status as a sincere and authentic representation of American life at the turn of the twenty-first century. The shattered nature of reality and the "stinking thinking" inherent in addiction are depicted through the narrative structure, in which the time is literally "out of joint," and the "antic disposition" of various characters who are evocative of both the melancholic and heroic sides of the play's lead. Hamlet operates as a primary textual constraint in which the matrix of plot, device, methodology, and motif intersect and envision one of the Western world's most recognizable stories transposed on 1990s America. Infinite Jest is a closed system in which geometry and literature converge by way of a customized Oulipo method that uses constraint as an improvisatory means to inhabit the space where things "fragment into beauty" (Infinite Jest 81): the glory of infinity