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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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Without the help, support and generosity of the following people this monograph would not have been possible: My first such acknowledgement is of my parents and the care and tol- erance which they showed towards me and my work. More times than I care to remember my days with them alternated between reading, writing and exercising. Little room was left for anything else, including conversa- tion, and for the most part they tolerated such behaviour with a level of forbearance and grace which I can never repay. I would like to extend my thanks to Dr Tom Jones and Dr Chris Gair. Their comments were invaluable and the discourse which we shared helped me feel that the work mattered, and was cared about, beyond a relatively narrow circle which sustained me for four years. A deep gratitude goes to Ms Sandra Wallace. More times than I can count she showed near infinite patience and goodwill in saving me from myself during the various administrative calamities that my obsession with my research brought about. Without her kindness and willingness to help, I would never have completed my doctoral work. Of my context in St Andrews I would like to acknowledge, in par- ticular, the Martin Heidegger reading group – Jake Andrews, Christina Andrews, Ben Davies, Hannah Swithinbank, Nora Bartlett and Dr Sarah Dillon. If nothing else they showed me that my interests were not too bizarre to share, and the good discussions, and good wine, were a highlight of those years. My...

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