Don DeLillo

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People everywhere are absorbed in conversation. [...] Conversation is life, language is the deepest being. We see the patterns repeat, the gestures drive the words. It is the sound and picture of humans communicating. [...] Every conversation is a shared narrative, a thing that surges forward, too dense to allow space for the unspoken, the sterile. The talk is unconditional, the participants drawn in completely.

-- Don DeLillo, The Names (1982)

Calls for Papers | Conference Sessions & Meetings | New and Forthcoming Publications

Calls for Papers

American Literature Association Conference, Cambridge, MA, May 2003:

Talking Trash. Don DeLillo, celebrated as a "master ventriloquist" of American culture, represents myriad perspectives at work in American discourse. Hearing the voices that people our landscape, DeLillo incorporates professional jargon and media jive, the slosh of orange juice, the "jones" of Jones Street, and the jive talk of capitalist overkill. Talking trash becomes a literal possibility in DeLillo's work as well, when, for example, we find Jack Gladney poking through compacted debris, and feeling "like a household spy" because the family's garbage may be indicative of "habits, fetishes, addictions, inclinations" (White Noise). Later, in Underworld, J. Edgar Hoover's own "habits, fetishes, and inclinations" become the stuff of concern when garbage guerillas target his household refuse. Of course, with DeLillo, we're not just talking literal trash, but the propaganda and PR that attempt to justify government malfeasance and corporate irresponsibility. To borrow an idea from Bahktin's essay "Dostovesky's Polyphonic Novel," DeLillo's particular gift is related to his talent "for hearing and understanding all voices immediately and simultaneously" and his ability to take the discourse and to reveal its "various facets, nuances, possibilities." That is, DeLillo subjects trash talk to contextualization and juxtaposes the ideas or perspectives embraced by various characters as they "ente[r] into various relationships with other life-positions." For example, the theme of photography ricochets and reverberates in Mao II, in the particular images that actually appear in the text (problematizing the very position of the photographers themselves), in Brita's photographs of novelist and terrorists, and in the fading away of Karen's Kodachrome husband.

We are looking for papers that explore how DeLillo can be said to be "talking trash," and how, at the same time, how his fiction is redeemed from merely ventriloquizing American discursive half-truths. Terrorism, computers, assassination, baseball, fashion, Tupperware, postmodern language games, consumerism, love... these are some of the topics that DeLillo explores with "the greatest possible qualitative diversity" (to borrow another phrase from Bakhtin). In other words, we invite particpants to consider various kinds of subjects in DeLillo's work, taking into account DeLillo's ability to hear his characters talk the talk, but also in his creation and construction of that larger universe, in which discourse both reinforces and challenges the conditions in which his characters find themselves.

By January 20, 2003, email 250-word abstracts to Jacqueline Zubeck (Manhattan College, Rivervale, NY):

Sponsored by the Don DeLillo Society. 

SAMLA Conference, Baltimore, MD, November 2002:

"Raids on Human Consciousness": Don DeLillo and the Narratives of Terror. In Mao II (1991) Don DeLillo's novelist character Bill Gray declares that terrorists have appropriated cultural authority from novelists. Terrorists make "raids on human consciousness" (41) so forceful that now "the major work involves midair explosions and crumbled buildings. This is the new tragic narrative" (157). In the wake of September 11, Gray's words seem frighteningly prescient. Indeed, throughout his career -- from Players and The Names through Mao II, and extendng to his recent essay in Harper's--DeLillo has reflected on the nature and power of terrorist authority. What do his works reveal about the role of narrative art in the post-September 11 world? Has authorship yielded its cultural significance to spectacles of mass disaster? What are the relationships between terrorism and mediation?

By March 31, 2002, send 250-word abstracts on any aspect of terror in DeLillo's work to Mark Osteen,

Sponsored by the Don DeLillo Society. 

Conference Sessions & Meetings

MLA Conference, New York, NY, 27-30 December 2002:

Don DeLillo Society Meeting. Saturday, 28 Dec., 5:15 p.m., hotel bar of the Warwick (#13 on the MLA's map, located at 54th and 6th [Ave. of Americas]). Look for flyers announcing the meeting.

 Sponsored by the Don DeLillo Society.

SAMLA Conference, Baltimore, MD, 15-17 November, 2002:

"Raids on Human Consciousness": Don DeLillo and the Narratives of Terror. Saturday, 16 Nov. 2002, 1:15-2:45 p.m. Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor Hotel. Schaefer. Chair: Mark Osteen.

  • "'The Telling Had Merged with the Event': Authorial Terrorism in The Names," Jacqueline Zubeck, Manhattan College
  • "'A Picture Now, Flat as Birdshit on a Buick': Terrorism and the Visual Image in Don DeLillo's America," Kathleen L. MacArthur, George Washington University
  • "History as Counter-terrorism in Underworld and The Body Artist," Glen Scott Allen, Towson University

 Sponsored by the Don DeLillo Society.

New and Forthcoming Publications


Nel, Philip. "'Amid the Undeniable Power of the Montage': Modern Forms, Postmodern Politics, and The Role of the Avant-Garde In Don DeLillo's Underworld." The Avant-Garde and American Postmodernity: Small Incisive Shocks. University Press of Mississippi, 2002. 96-115.

Dewey, Joseph, Steven G. Kellman, and Irving Malin, eds. Under/Words: Perspectives on Don DeLillo's Underworld. University of Delaware Press, 2002. Includes the following essays:

  • J Dewey, "What Beauty, What Power": Speculations of the Third Edgar"
  • David Yetter, "Subjectifying the Objective: Underworld as Mutable Narrative"
  • Robert McMinn, "Underworld: Sin and Atonement"
  • David Cowart, "Shall These Bones Live?"
  • Steven Kellman, "DeLillo's Logogenetic Underworld"
  • Timothy Parrish, "DeLillo and Pynchon"
  • Carol Ostrowski, "Underworld and Mason & Dixon: Conspiratorial Jesuits"
  • Donald Greiner, "DeLillo, John Updike, and the Sustaining Power of Myth"
  • Joanne Gass, "Nick Shay and Nick Carrway: The Myth of the American Adam"
  • Paul Gleason, "DeLillo and T. S. Eliot: Redemption of America's Atomic Waste Land"
  • Kathleen Fitzpatrick, "The Unmaking of History: Baseball, the Cold War, and Underworld"
  • Thomas Myers,"Underworld; or How I stopped Worrying and Learned to Live the Bomb: DeLillo and Kubrick"
  • Ira Nadel, "The Baltimore Cathchism: or Comedy in Underworld"

Conte, Joseph. "Noise and Signal: Information Theory in Don DeLillo's White Noise." Design and Debris: A Chaotics of Postmodern American Fiction. University of Alabama Press, May 2002. 112-139. See also the concluding chapter, "The Superabundance of Cyberspace: Postmodern Fiction in the Information Age," which addresses Underworld on pages 215-219.

Cowart, David. Don DeLillo: The Physics of Language. University of Georgia Press, 2002.

Duvall, John. Don DeLillo's Underworld: A Reader's Guide. New York and London: Continuum Publishing, 2002.

Gauthier, Marni. "Better Living Through Westward Migration: Don DeLillo's Inversion of the American West as 'Virgin Land' in Underworld.'" Moving Stories: Migration and the American West, 1850-2000. Ed. Scott E. Casper. Nevada Humanities Committee. Halcyon Series 23. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2001. 131-152.

Yuknavitch, Lidia. Chapter 4, "Nuclear Ideology and Narrative Displacement." Allegories of Violence: Tracing the Writing of War in Twentieth-Century Fiction. New York & London: Routledge, 2001. 55-73 [White Noise].

DeLillo, Don. Pafko at the Wall. Scribner, 2001.

Scanlan, Margaret. Chapter 1, "Don DeLillo's Mao II and the Rushdie Affair." Plotting Terror: Novelists and Terrorists in Contemporary Fiction. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 2001. 19-36.

Critique 42.4 (Summer 2001). A special issue on DeLillo, with essays by Karnicky, Kavadlo, Muirhead, Nel, Wallace, and Yehnert.

DeLillo, Don. The Body Artist. Scribner, 2001. For more information, see Don DeLillo's America's "Body Artist" page.


DeLillo, Don. Cosmopolis. New York: Scribner, March 2003.

Kavadlo, Jesse. Balance and Belief in Don DeLillo's Recent Fiction (Peter Lang, 2003)

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Events are sponsored by the Don DeLillo Society only when indicated.

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