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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. 

Conference Sessions & Meetings

Modern Language Association: 2003 Convention, San Diego, CA, 27-30 Dec., 2003

Don DeLillo Society Business Meeting. Sunday, Dec. 28, 2:00 p.m. D.W.'s Pub in South Tower of the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina (no. 2 on MLA map, next to the San Diego Convention Center). New members welcome!

Sponsored by the Don DeLillo Society. 

Don DeLillo's Tour, March-April 2003. Click on link for schedule. For more information, see Curt Gardner's "DeLillo Events of Interest" page, at Don DeLillo's America.

American Literature Association: 2003 Conference, Cambridge, Mass., 22 - 25 May, 2003.

Don DeLillo Society Business Meeting. Friday, May 23, 11:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m. Hyatt Regency Cambridge, hotel lounge near elevators.

Sponsored by the Don DeLillo Society. 

American Literature Association: 2003 Conference, Cambridge, Mass., 22 - 25 May, 2003.

Talking Trash: Don DeLillo in the 21st Century. Friday, May 23, 8:00-9:20 a.m. Hyatt Regency Cambridge, William Dawes B. Chair: Jacqueline A. Zubeck, Manhattan College and the Don DeLillo Society.

    1. "Waste as Discourse: the trash ship in Underworld," Rick Swope, University of Puerto Rico
    2. "Locating the Metaphysics of a Form: The Language of Valparaiso," Cornel Bonca, California State University, Fullerton
    3. "Sacred Trash," Amy Hungerford, Yale University

Sponsored by the Don DeLillo Society. 

Twentieth-Century Literature Conference, Louisville, KY, 27 February - March 1, 2003:

Don DeLillo Society Meeting. Friday, February 28, 2003. Joseph Conte, presiding. Meet at 12:15 pm in room 300 of the Bingham Humanities Building. From there, you'll go (for lunch) to the Bristol Cafe at the Speed Museum on the University of Louisville campus.

Don DeLillo. Friday, February 28, 2003, 3:15 pm. Chair: Joseph Conte. Panelists: Joseph Conte, Gisele Manganelli Fernandes, and Aaron Ritzenberg.

New and Forthcoming Publications


Orr, Leonard. Don DeLillo's White Noise: A Reader's Guide. New York and London: Continuum Publishing, 2003.

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

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. Second edition (paperback) with Cosmopolis chapter, 2003.

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


Kavadlo, Jesse. Balance and Belief in Don DeLillo's Recent Fiction. Peter Lang, 2004.

For current events, please consult the Don DeLillo Society's "Events" page.

For more events, please consult the "Events" page at Don DeLillo's America.

Past Events: 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003

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

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