DeLillotastic News

in ACLA, Cosmopolis, David Foster Wallace, Don DeLillo, Jonathan Franzen, White Noise

As if I didn’t have enough to do, between job applications, teaching, various forms of blogging, and occasionally dissertation-writing (let’s not even discuss new-novel writing), I decided to shoot off an abstract applying to participate in the American Comparative Literature Association’s 2009 annual meeting. Specifically to a fascinating-sounding seminar called “Master of the Universe: Literature, Culture, and Finance Culture.”

I submitted an abstract for a paper called “The Cosmopolitanism of High Finance in Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis.” And who woulda thunk: the abstract was accepted into the seminar. So now I must add one more thing to do on my to-do list, right after Check To-Do List Regularly. This commitment will force me to do some much-needed thinking and writing on DeLillo, who is hovering all over my dissertation but whom I don’t directly address. Wallace and Franzen were hugely influenced by DeLillo — reading their letters to him at the Ransom Center is utterly fascinating — and I think the general critical classification of DeLillo as a postmodernist gets him wrong in important ways.

Naturally enough, I try to position DeLillo as an author who shares many of the concerns and aesthetic commitments of the folks I call postironists, though his concerns clearly predate whole postironic careers. There is a risk when you write a dissertation — or anything — of discovering your interests everywhere you look, but I think I can defend my claim that the dominant reflexive readings of DeLillo’s career tend to rely too much on White Noise as their model of DeLillodom (or maybe DeLillohood). No, I say. Not so!

The more I read by DeLillo, the more I am convinced that White Noise is actually quite anomalous in his career. He’s not so ironic, once you get to know his writing. Rather, I see him as someone who wishes he could avoid irony — which is for him defined by the detachment of words from their referents — but who holds out little hope that it’s possible to do so anymore.

1 Comment

One Comment

  1. The risk 'of discovering your interests everywhere you look' is infecting me at the moment, I was teaching a seminar on Louise Erdrich and started preaching my methodology (looking at commercial construction of authorship and literary identity) to my undergrads, slightly worried of how some of the ones that liked my ideas might interpret them for essays!
    I haven't read much DeLillo but intuitively your supposition in your last paragraph makes sense to me – I started with Libra and the dominant feeling I get from that is an attempt to recover meaning and sense from the chaos of the events of that novel.
    Good luck with your paper, will keep an eye on your progress here with interest.