Department or Program



The literal and conceptual presence of waste in its many formulations pervades the thematic content, narrative development, syntactical expression, and even lexical character of Don DeLillo’s Underworld and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. However, waste in this ubiquitous capacity does not merely exist as a conceptual setting or static condition for the action of these novels; instead, it actively occurs in a way that determines the course of the development (and, indeed, even the possibility of the progression) of these narratives as the dynamic entity by which the temporal framework of their happening is ultimately reckoned. I begin this thesis by showing how waste in these texts—via the cultural processes that produce it and that it in turn generates—regulates the character and flow of (urban) time. Building upon my own close readings and the cinematic thought of Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, I then proceed to argue that waste and its processes exist at the conceptual core of how it becomes possible for film as a vital mode of narrative expression and cultural critique in both these texts to manipulate the temporal paradigm in which viewers find themselves and which they willingly (if not altogether consciously) perpetuate. In this way, I explore how the function of film in Underworld and Infinite Jest both appropriates and critically nuances the cultural processes by which waste articulates the underlying nature and operation of narrative time in these novels in order to release its audience from the characteristic circularity of a waste-centric—and thus morbidly consumerist, information-saturated, culturally diluted and historically disposable—temporal framework (i.e. what I propose to call “waste-time”).

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Dillon, Steven

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


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