Getting out of our Comfort Zone: David Foster Wallace’s “The Depressed Person” and “This is Water”

Geoff Klock at Nowadays

Tue, Aug 15 at 7:30 p.m.   |   90 minutes

Join us as we experience one of the most grim and darkly funny short stories ever as well as an uplifting commencement address, and think about art that stretches our capacity for empathy, sometimes quite painfully.

David Foster Wallace is important (I am sorry to be that guy) but who has time for a 1200 page novel that actively tries to not be enjoyable. Join me as we experience the most grim and darkly funny short story I have ever seen and an uplifting commencement address, and think about art that stretches our capacity for empathy, sometimes quite painfully.

"This is Water" - This essay covers subjects including “the difficulty of empathy,” “the importance of being well adjusted,” and “the essential lonesomeness of adult life.” Additionally, Wallace’s speech suggests that the overall purpose of higher education is to be able to consciously choose how to perceive others, think about meaning, and act appropriately in everyday life. He argues that the true freedom acquired through education is the ability to be adjusted, conscious, and sympathetic.

“The Depressed Person” - This story ran in Harper’s back in 1998 and most Wallace aficionados are familiar with it. It follows a depressed person who remains nameless throughout. The first sentence gives you a pretty good idea of the whole thing’s tone: “The depressed person was in terrible and unceasing emotional pain, and the impossibility of sharing or articulating this pain was itself a component of the pain and a contributing factor in its essential horror.”

Teacher: Geoff Klock

Geoff Klock has a doctorate from Oxford and is a professor at BMCC-CUNY. He teaches philosophy (mostly the philosophy of art), Shakespeare, canonical poetry in English, parables, and film (mostly movies about movies, and David Lynch). He is the author of four academic books on things like television shows and superheroes and has been cited 290 times.


Venue: Nowadays

What is Think Olio?


Think Olio is here to put the liberation back into the liberal arts.

Classically, the liberal arts, were the education considered essential for a free person to take an active part in civic life. To counter a humanities that has been institutionalized and dehumanized we infuse critical thinking, openness, playfulness, and compassion into our learning experience.

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Olio: A miscellaneous collection of art and literature.