“Popping into Your Mind’s Eye”: Covert Multimodality in David Foster Wallace’s “The Soul Is Not a Smithy”

Ivan Delazari, Jason S Polley

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The article reads David Foster Wallace’s short story “The Soul Is Not a Smithy” (2004) as a sample of covert multimodality—implementation of several sensorial and/or semiotic modes in an apparently monomodal medium. Unlike the thoroughly theorized genre of the multimodal novel, Wallace’s narrative does not materially incorporate any visual images, remaining “purely” verbal—even hyperverbal, considering the author’s reputation for supplemental detours and deferrals. In “The Soul Is Not a Smithy,” one narrative strand is a comic strip the schoolkid protagonist pictures entirely in his head, projecting it onto a classroom windowpane while other events transpire. Alternating between reports of imaginary comic panels and fragments from other subplots, Wallace stimulates the reader’s capacity to visualize layered literary storyworlds. Because our “sensations,” in Lars Elleström’s nomenclature, matter more than material “sense-data” in the establishment of a multimodal experience, the comic provides the narrative with a distinct visual interface.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-432
Number of pages20
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

User-Defined Keywords

  • multimodality
  • multimodal literature
  • intermediality
  • David Foster Wallace


Dive into the research topics of '“Popping into Your Mind’s Eye”: Covert Multimodality in David Foster Wallace’s “The Soul Is Not a Smithy”'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this