Abstract

George Saunders and David Foster Wallace are two American prose writers who rose to prominence in the late twentieth century. This article reads their short stories alongside the formal philosophy of Immanuel Kant, an eighteenth-century German philosopher who argues that rationality is the source of morality. Fictional discourse informs, invigorates and deepens Kant's philosophical theories. The dialogue between Kant's universal moral laws and the particularized aesthetic treatment of existence in Saunders's Tenth of December and Wallace's “Good Old Neon” illuminates our understanding of suicide and self-worth. The short stories explore suicide as the occasion of self-discovery and autonomy and collectively establish an ethical model of human relations where the individual's value is not self-inherent as Kant argues, but embedded within societal claims.

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