Strong words, weak subjects : a critical examination and theoretical and historical contextualisation of the novels of Don Delillo
This thesis is a theory focused critical contextualisation of the novels of Don DeLillo that situates the author at the forefront of contemporary literatures of resistance. Through a detailed examination of a number of his works, and a generic discussion of all, it makes the argument that, by foregrounding a number of radical aesthetic methodologies such as controlled monologism and what Fredric Jameson terms 'the transcoding of perceptual terminologies' - or the emplacement of multiple theoretical positions within the totality of the novel - DeLillo attempts to compel his reader into coming to terms with their linguistically circumscribed personal ontology. The first, introductory chapter, an analysis of the writer's depictions of the social environment of contemporary America and his metatheoretical solutions to what cultural commentator Jean Baudrillard calls 'hyperreality' - the hegemonic prevalence of serial signs and simulations that self-reproduce and separate humanity from the 'real' world - sets up the proposition that DeLillo's ambivalent attitude to language, his representations of subjects struggling to find their own voice and name, is connected to a politically motivated aesthetic that provides the reader with a kind of 'cognitive mapping,' enabling them to contextualise themselves within the confusing spatial and temporal dimensions of the late-capitalist postmodern world. The propositions introduced in chapter one are then built upon in three wholly original close-readings of some of DeLillo's best known works. Chapter two examines DeLillo's controversial metafictional historiography Libra through the critical lens of the sublime and Jean-Francois Lyotard's binary of the discursive and figural - discussing how DeLillo's Oswald is constructed within the text in order to connect with Lyotard's ideas on postmodern representation. This is followed in chapter three by a Bakhtinian reading of DeLillo's early work Ratner's Star that clarifies the process of cognitive mapping, and an ecocritical analysis of Underworld in chapter four that consolidates and expands the drive of the thesis. The thesis will conclude by offering a final chapter that summarises DeLillo's methodology and opens the argument out to include parallels between DeLillo's practice and that of comparable European metatheorists.