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David Foster Wallace: On Producing Litterature

When you’re teaching undergrads, they’re not generating litterature. Most of them are coming from a highschool experience where they’re taught a model of writing that is fundamentally expressive.

That is, we want you to write therefore anything you do is good. This is good because you did it.

I’m making it sound cruder than it is but it is a big problem, even, especially actually with bright undergraduates.

Shifting them from a mode of expressive writing where it’s good, where every reader’s your mom to communicative writing where you assume this is a busy adult with her own interests and time commitment. How are you going to make it worth it for this person to read your stuff.

In my experience it is a heavy head-trip to students.

The terror of suddently realizing that, you know what, it’s not good just because I did it, and the reader is not necessarily interested in what I am interested in, and how in fact I am going to make this interesting.

This is actually really really interesting.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with self-consciousness. The trick with students is to make them realize that the consciousness they are conscious of is simultaneously less and more interesting that they think it is.

The two lethal kinds of students are the paralyzed ones who thinks anything they could have thought out has no interest to anyone else, and the other side, who are litterally unable to imagine a reader not being as entranced in the stuff as they are.

—David Foster Wallace

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