Fracturing Histories: Understanding the writing of Narratives in a Visual Culture through Don DeLillo's Fiction

Hickey, Stephen (2005) Fracturing Histories: Understanding the writing of Narratives in a Visual Culture through Don DeLillo's Fiction. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The experience of film has acquired a kind of independent existence in our consciousness, it's that deeply embedded... Film creates a dreaming space all of us occupy.
(Don DeLillo, The Word, the Image and the Gun: BBC Omnibus, 27/09/1991).

The novelistic works of Don DeLillo repeatedly examine contemporary subjectivity and its relationship with the moving image. This concern resonates throughout the author's fiction from his early short stories of the 1960's through to his most recent work, 2003's Cosmopolis.

In his 1988 novel, Libra, DeLillo explores the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, shifting the focus from, arguably, the world's most visually arresting piece of film, to the man who was, allegedly, absent from the frame. Chapter one of this study consists of an analysis of the text, and builds upon an apparent shift in DeLillo's conception of Oswald from prd- to post-Libra. The theoretical foundation of the argument draws upon the early psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan, particularly his seminal paper on subjectivity's origin, 'The Minor Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience.'

Chapter two considers the issues raised in chapter one and applies them to DeLillo's 1998 epic, Underworld. By extending these concerns to a far larger novelistic time frame, this chapter analyses the rise of the moving image and its increasing influence on human selfhood. This chapter will also draw upon Walter Benjamin's essay, 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,' and demonstrate that, for DeLillo, the dissipation of aura has a much more negative impact on human consciousness than Benjamin initially envisaged.

The study will conclude by arguing that the author himself has been heavily influenced by the moving image, as the cinematic works of Jean-Luc Godard have permeated his literary constructions. To do this I will examine a number of parallels between DeLillo's and Godard's early work, and argue that an echo of Godard's earlier films still resounds in DeLillo's most recent novelistic work.

To my knowledge, this is the only academic study of DeLillo to draw on Lacan's theory of the minor stage, and I contend that this is a fruitful area for further investigation.

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