Baudrillard, DeLillo's "White Noise," and the End of Heroic Narrative Author(s): Leonard Wilcox
Source: Contemporary Literature, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Autumn, 1991), pp. 346-365 Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1208561 .
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This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.52.75 on Tue, 27 Nov 2012 18:24:43 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsBAUDRILLARD, DELILLO'S WHITE NOISE, AND THE END OF HEROIC NARRATIVE
From Americana, through Great Jones Street, White Noise, and Libra, Don DeLillo's novels have been concerned with the relationship between American identity and the mediascapes. If the two earlier works were preoccupied with the way in which the American dream is manipulated by the media, the later two chart a world that is mediated by and constituted in the technologico-semiotic regime. In White Noise DeLillo's protagonist Jack Gladney confronts a new order in which life is increasingly lived in a world of simulacra, where images and electronic representations replace direct experience. In Libra, Lee Oswald is a product of that order; a figure devoted to media self- fashioning, he constructs his life- and indeed his death- from the proliferation of charismatic images and spectacles of a postmodern society.1
White Noise and Libra particularly, with their interest in elec- tronic mediation and representation, present a view of life in contempo- rary America that is uncannily similar to that depicted by Jean Baudrillard. They indicate that the transformations of contemporary society that Baudrillard describes in his theoretical writings on infor- mation and media have also gripped the mind and shaped the novels of Don DeLillo. For White Noise especially - because it most specifi- cally explores the realm of information and mediascape - Baudrillard's works provide an interesting, valuable, and even crucial perspective. The informational world Baudrillard delineates bears a striking resemblance to the world of White Noise: one characterized by the collapse of the real and the flow of signifiers emanating from an infor- mation society, by a "loss of the real" in a black hole of simulation and the play and exchange of signs. In this world common to both Baudrillard and DeLillo, images, signs, and codes engulf objective I wish to thank David C. Harlan for his helpful comments on this essay. 'For a discussion of Libra and DeLillo's mediascapes, see Lentricchia 10-29. Contemporary Literature XXXII, 3 0010-7484/91/0003-0346 $1.50/0 ?1991 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.52.75 on Tue, 27 Nov 2012 18:24:43 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionsreality; signs become more real than reality and stand in for the world they erase. Baudrillard's notion that this radical semiurgy results in the collapse of difference, firm structures, and finalities (the "fixities" by which...