Adaptation and *integration: Environmental unconscious in the works of Don DeLillo

Elise Ann Martucci, Fordham University


This dissertation demonstrates how Don DeLillo's fiction presents a synthesis of consumer culture and natural landscape as a key to his central theme of human survival in the postmodern world. Through close readings of DeLillo's novels and discussions of postmodernist and ecocritical theories, this project offers a significant addition to current criticism on DeLillo, postmodernist fiction, and environmental criticism. While much of the criticism on DeLillo has focused on his relationship to American popular culture, including the contemporary media environment, there is no comprehensive discussion of the environmental issues that pervade his texts. My dissertation offers such a comprehensive discussion while also presenting DeLillo's position within traditional American literary works. In order to examine DeLillo's presentation of the environment, I focus on the representation of children and the presentation of language and art in four of his novels: Americana, The Names, White Noise and Underworld. In these novels DeLillo's characters exhibit an often repressed awareness of the natural world underlying their image-dominated environment. It is this awareness and the subsequent desire to connect with their material world that illuminates the environmental consequences and challenges the conditions of our postindustrial society. These particular novels also reveal how environmental concerns have developed throughout DeLillo's body of work. In the earlier novels, DeLillo's environmental position is implicitly conveyed through his characters' responses to and perceptions of the landscape. His later novels, especially White Noise and Underworld , present specific environmental crises as evidence of the effects of the media-saturated culture that he examines. Through my analysis of DeLillo's fiction I do not argue that DeLillo is anti-technology or even particularly adverse to consumerism, but I do propose that his novels bring to light the environmental implications of consumerism and technology, and that they raise questions about how we can adapt to and survive in this environment.

Subject Area

American literature|Literature

Recommended Citation

Martucci, Elise Ann, "Adaptation and *integration: Environmental unconscious in the works of Don DeLillo" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3169388.