Randy Laist, University of Connecticut
Randy Laist is a doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut, where he is doing his dissertation on Don DeLillo with particular emphasis on the phenomenology of the technological. He recently returned from London, where he spoke on Norman Mailer's metaphysical interpretation of 9/11 and he's happy to be here today.
Toxic Spectacle/Infected Spectator: Sunsets in Don DeLillo's White Noise
Flash-forward to DeLillo's sunset. Jack and his wife Babette pull the car over to wonder at the sunset and repeat the phrase "Why is that?... Why is that?" not to each other exactly, but to the atmosphere, to the winds, in dread and dismay. It's as if Emerson's dream of a discursive relationship between man and nature has come true in a nightmarish kind of way. This cloudscape does murmur a dimly discernable soul-message for Jack touching on the nature of his existence. The same anonymous Rappaccinis have rendered the same kind of change in the sunset that they have rendered in Jack's self-understanding. The circle between subject and object has been redrawn but in a coarse material-historical way rather than a religious-literary way. DeLillo's description of the landscape suggests a kind of postmodern transcendentalism. The age-old American dream of a legible world - Bradford's dream, Cotton Mather's, Thoreau's and Emerson's - becomes true, but rather than elevating the being of man to the mystic proportions of nature, the effect has been more to drag nature down into the thanatoid Hitlerism rampant in mankind.