NICE PIECE by Katie Rophie up at Slate about David Foster Wallace’s syllabuses with several links to the actual documents. What she likes/underscores is Wallace’s conversational candor and the way he “takes apart” the “unspoken, conventional agreements usually made between professors and their students.”
One of the reasons I find his syllabuses so fascinating is that they are not polished pieces of writing. They are relatively devoid of his stylistic rococo, and while obviously not devoid of his astonishing level of self-consciousness, do provide some slight glimpse into the person, without the baffling ingenious mediation of his art.
Wallace refuses the habitual patterns and usual fictions that govern a classroom. His syllabus warns:
“If you are used to whipping off papers the night before they’re due, running them quickly through the computer’s Spellchecker, handing them in full of high-school errors and sentences that make no sense and having the professor accept them ‘because the ideas are good’ or something, please be informed that I draw no distinction between the quality of one’s ideas and the quality of those ideas’ verbal expression, and I will not accept sloppy, rough-draftish, or semiliterate college writing. Again I am absolutely not kidding.