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Pale King or Noonday Demon? Acedia, The Pale King, and David Foster Wallace's Moral Vision.


  • Jonathan Michael

Summary, in English

This essay argues that acedia is a helpful concept in illuminating the fiction of the American author David Foster Wallace, particularly his unfinished novel The Pale King. Following a brief biographical sketch of Wallace, the essay explores the development of the term acedia—which means something along the lines of apathy, sloth, and listlessness—and the two types of acedia: personal acedia and the broader form of cultural acedia. Boredom, which is intimately connected with acedia as well as one of the explicit subjects of The Pale King, is examined in parallel to acedia. Next, the essay moves to an exploration of Wallace’s aesthetic and moral vision to demonstrate how acedia ties into Wallace’s attempts to turn, from the prevailing irony of his postmodernist forbearers, to an ethic of sincerity. Finally, acedia is employed as a lens for a close reading of The Pale King, and it is argued that Wallace’s solution for dealing with acedia is attention.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


  • Languages and Literatures


  • David Foster Wallace
  • Acedia
  • The Pale King
  • Infinite Jest
  • Evagrius
  • Sloth
  • Accidie


  • Paul Tenngart (PhD)