Introduction written by Ashlie Kontos, Diversity Team Member
I began searching for ways to incorporate David Foster Wallace’s essays into non-literature-based classrooms almost one year ago. I was needlessly worried that I would only be able to find syllabi for English courses, which would not be very useful in my classroom full of freshmen pursing STEM majors. As I began this search for how DFW’s works are incorporated into college classrooms, I was surprised and thoroughly impressed to find his works being included in English and mathematics courses, history and law reading lists, and music and environmental-studies programs. I know of few authors whose range and depth of writing is as ambidextrous as Wallace’s: the quality of his essays is as strong when it comes to writing about Dostoevsky as it is about the porn industry, as captivating when he explored a political campaign and radio talk show as when he digressed on language usage and modal logic.
And so, I should not have been surprised to find Wallace being included across the university curriculum spectrum. I initially began searching Texas university websites for the keyword “David Foster Wallace” to locate these syllabi, and after this limited search proved quite fruitful, I became searching universities across the U.S. and then even to some European universities. This search has by no means exhaustive, but it is a starting point. I plan to continue building upon this list, and so anyone who would like to share their syllabus that includes any of DFW’s works, is welcome to email me by clicking my name above, or the Diversity Team. Anyone who knows that DFW is instructed in a certain classroom at a given institution is also invited to email me, even if they don’t have access to the syllabus or course content. I hope that this syllabi research project proves as useful to others as it has been to me.