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The Language of Self

Strategies of Subjectivity in the Novels of Don DeLillo

Phill Pass

The Language of Self explores the portrayal of subjectivity in Don DeLillo’s fiction. It proposes that his characters’ conception of self is determined by the tension between a desire for connection and a longing for isolation. The particular form taken by this language of self is shown to be both shaped by, and in turn formed through, an interaction with larger, social constructions of agency. In order to explore this phenomenon from both an individual and a social perspective, the author undertakes detailed close readings of DeLillo’s texts, informed by nuanced theoretical analysis which stresses the symbiotic interaction of social and individual context.
This method informs the structure of the book, which is divided into three sections. The first, entitled ‘Dasein’, conceptualises how DeLillo’s characters navigate between isolation and connection, shaping a particular enunciation of self which reflects the balance they strike between self and other. ‘Phenomenology’, the second section, explores how DeLillo’s treatment of language and image alters this balance and examines the sustainability of each enunciation of self. The final section, ‘Das Man’, addresses how the language of self shapes, and is shaped by, a wider social context.

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Acknowledgements ix Introduction 1 Section 1 Dasein 23 Chapter 1 ‘[L]ife narrowed down to unfinished rooms’: Isolation and the Language of Self 25 Chapter 2 ‘[Y]our link to the fate of mankind’: Connection and the Language of Self 41 Section 2 Phenomenology 69 Chapter 3 ‘With a word they could begin to grid the world’: Denotation and the Language of Self 71 Chapter 4 ‘[T]o smash my likeness, prism of all my images’: Hyperreality, άλήθεια (truth) and the Language of Self 101 viii Section 3 Das Man 121 Chapter 5 ‘Capital burns of f the nuance in a culture’: Consumption, Capital, Chrimatistikós and the Middle American Enunciation of Self 123 Chapter 6 ‘[T]he banned materials of civilization’: Waste, Sinthomosexuality and Middle America 145 Chapter 7 ‘[T]o maintain a force in the world that comes into people’s sleep’: Power, Alterity and the Formation of Hegemony 163 Chapter 8 ‘[T]he balance of power and the balance of terror’: Terrorism and the uneigentlich Publicness of das Man 183 Conclusion To ‘[e]xplore America in the screaming night’: The Language of Self as the Foundation of Future DeLillo Criticism 205 Selected Bibliography 213 Index 219

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