Newsletter 1.2 (July 2000)

From the President

The Don DeLillo Society exists to facilitate new scholarship on the works of Don DeLillo and to promote his reputation in the scholarly community. The appearance of two new books this year, and two more in the works (see Events), promises a good deal for the future. Still, we should act as both a clearing house and a source of inspiration. We can do so by continuing to maintain an updated Bibliography, which functions as an invaluable resource for scholars. The DDS should also strongly encourage the participation of both veteran and less experienced scholars. We should attempt to generate annual panels for the Twentieth-Century Literature Conference and the American Literature Association Conference, and continue to propose special sessions at the MLA conference. I would especially encourage interested scholars to propose panels for the regional MLAs, which are often hungry for good topics.

The DDS should generate programs that will direct attention to previously underrecognized areas of research. For example, I would like to see more attention paid to DeLillo’s earlier works, including his short fiction and plays; more scholarship on topics such as gender, language and style, and on the intertextual relationships between DeLillo’s works and those of his contemporaries and predecessors, both American and international. Once The Body Artist appears in February, 2001, we should seek to organize a panel about it for one of the above mentioned conferences.

And let us not forget that author societies should also be a venue for collegial interaction and friendships. In short, we should also have fun! Party on, College on the Hill Alumni!

— Mark Osteen

A Message from the Outgoing President

Why did we start the Don DeLillo Society? It’s obvious. DeLillo’s fiction is where our obsessions dwell. And with good reason. DeLillo’s work represents an important commentary on American national identity and the condition of postmodernity. In forming this society, we wished to foster sustained and serious scholarship on DeLillo’s impressive body of fiction.

DDS therefore was constituted to provide forums not only for the celebration of DeLillo’s artistic vision but also to begin to map the limitations of that vision.

Thanks to everyone who helped make the formation of the DDS so painless. Phil Nel, Glen Scott Allen, and Joseph Conte were all wonderful to work with in planning stages. What have we accomplished? Well, we have a name and for those of you who recall the flurry of discussion on that matter, you are intimately acquainted with just how fraught the act of naming can be. I’m pleased that in our first year we’ve established ourselves with the American Literature Association. This affiliation will serve, I hope, to give DDS a credibility that will allow for the future exploration of MLA author society status.

I’m pleased that Mark Osteen has assumed the leadership of DDS and know I join all of you in offering him both our best wishes and the promise of any support he may request in the future.

— John Duvall

DDS Sponsors Panel at Twentieth-Century Literature Conference

The Don DeLillo Society sponsored its first panel on “Don DeLillo and Postmodern Media Culture” at the Twentieth-Century Literature Conference at the University of Louisville on February 26, 2000. The selected papers addressed the interaction of postmodern media culture and terrorism in DeLillo’s work. Although terrorists and terrorism are frequently represented in DeLilloÌs novels, the papers inquired into the readiness with which terror arises in our media-saturated, technologically “advanced” epoch. (For summaries of the papers, click here.)

The panel was organized and chaired by Joseph Conte, Treasurer of the DDS, who distributed information about Society membership, our website, and proposed panels at the American Literature Association conference in Long Beach, CA and the Modern Language Association convention in Washington, DC later this year

Glen Scott Allen, Editor of the DDS Newsletter, presented on “Senseless Acts of Violence: Don DeLillo and the Mad Text of Terror.” Focusing on Mao II, Allen discussed fictional and real acts of terrorism as “raids on human consciousness” that compete with other texts for our attention. Allen argued that, whereas the Powers That Be wish to consider terrorist acts “mad speech” without meaning or communicative value, DeLillo suggests that the overdetermined self-referenciality of postmodern language creates the same sort of nonlocal, random, ubiquitous sense of terror.

William Robert next presented “Explain Me to Myself: Displacement and Self-Media(iza)tion in Underworld and Valparaiso.” He discussed the prominence of the technology of waste in Underworld, suggesting that garbage arises first in any civilization, forcing the invention of new technologies to cope with its accumulation. Waste is present as a kind of underhistory. Drawing on Derrida, Robert argues that the economy of the archive institutes cultural history

Anthony Miller offered selections from his alphabetically organized presentation “Decoding DeLilloÌs Decades of Dietrologia: An Underworld Alphabet.” Inspired by Lenny Bruce, Miller’s amusing remarks ranged from American voices and baseball to the Zapruder film. Dietrologia, he tells us, is the science of dark forces, what is behind an event, its latent history. “Lists are a form of cultural hysteria.”

Finally, Jeff Karnicky presented “Wallpaper Mao: Don DeLillo, Andy Warhol, and Seriality.” Karnicky drew careful parallels between the seriality and repetition of Warhol’s famous pop art canvases and the proliferation of images, especially on TV, in DeLilloÌs fiction. TV functions as an attractor, and Warhol, who preferred television to close relationships with other people, is himself wounded by a disgruntled groupie the day before Bobby Kennedy is assassinated after a televised appearance.

The panel was very well attended, including appearances by Phil Nel, our Secretary, Kathryn Hume, and John Krafft, co-founder of Pynchon Notes. Questions and comments on the papers were quite lively. In all, the panel was a successful inaugural event for the Society.

— Joseph Conte

From the Editor:

Obviously, this second issue of the Newsletter is … well … deadline-challenged. However, given the rousing expression of faith in the current Editor by the Society’s membership (never mind that there were no other nominations), I’ll take this opportunity to promise greater regularity in future editions.

In the first issue, I asked for contributions such as letters to the editor, comments, etc. I repeat that request. It strikes me that this Newsletter is an excellent forum for the exchange of comments about books and articles on DeLillo, reviews, and all manner of commentary less formal than full-fledged academic essays. I hope the next issue will inaugurate both Letters to the Editor and Comments/Reviews sections.

With this request in mind, I offer October 31st as a firm publication date for the next issue, and ask that any/all contributions reach me no later than October 15th. This hypertext version of the Newsletter is available to anyone. A text-only version will be sent upon request, as will a hardcopy version for those without access to (or interest in) all things online.

If you have information, questions or letters for the next issue, please send them to me at no later than October 15th, 2000.

—Glen Scott Allen