CWW Managing Editorial & Communications Intern Emily Smith for The Ploughshares Blog: Infinite Jest as Performance Art


I was at Punta della Dogana in Venice when I first saw Ryan Trecartin’s Center Jenny. The movie was projected on the wall and brooded over Lizzie Fitch’s sculptures: lawn chairs and picnic benches chained to golf course-quality grass like a scary garden party. The film itself follows a group of sorority sisters with psychedelic skin to the soundtrack of breaking glass; their dialogue is alien English, merely clusters of Internet sound bites. The narrative is still in disconnect no matter how many times I watch the film, not quite something that can be revealed without its own consent, by which I mean that Center Jenny is content in control of itself and aware of its own audience—it’s not just video art, or something to be absorbed, but performance art. The same can be said for David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.

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An Evening w. Rebecca Skloot at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (Cambridge, MA, September 29, 2015)

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University presents a lecture and discussion about Rebecca Skloot’s new award-winning book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and her path to writing it. Part detective story, part scientific odyssey, and part family saga, the story’s multilayered approach raises questions about race, class, and bioethics in America. At this event, Skloot will speak about the book and her path to writing it. She is currently working on her next book, which will be about humans, animals, science, and ethics.

The event will be held on September 29 and begin at 5 p.m. The presentation will be at Knafel Center (10 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA).  The event is free and open to the public. To register, click here.

Skloot holds a BS in biological sciences and an MFA in creative nonfiction, degrees that she helped pay for by working in emergency rooms, neurology labs, veterinary medicine, animal morgues, and martini bars. She specializes in narrative science writing and has explored a wide range of topics, including goldfish surgery, tissue ownership rights, race and medicine, food politics, and packs of wild dogs in Manhattan. She has worked as a correspondent for WNYC’s Radiolab and PBS’s NovaScienceNOW. She is a visiting scholar at the Radcliffe Institute in September 2015 and will meet with students, faculty, and researchers to broaden the impact of the work she has done and make progress on her next projects.

Paula A. Johnson, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the executive director of the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology, will provide introductory remarks and moderate a panel discussion, following the lecture, about the intersection of biomedical science, research ethics, poverty, and race.