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Towards New Grand Narratives in Postmodern Fiction

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  1. Introduction
  2. DeLillo's White Noise and its resemblance to Lyotard's emancipation narrative
    1. Jack and Murray's style of speech
  3. The hyperreferential style of life
    1. DeLillo's structuring of the narrative
    2. The naming of the time for which intimacy is reserved
  4. The DeLillo critic Bruce Bawer
  5. Jack: A character and a function
  6. Subversions
  7. Cantor
    1. The main character Kat struggling to free herself from repetitious life
    2. Changing for the better
    3. A reinvention of the George Herriman comic strip
  8. The nature of the information Kilgore imparts and its resemblance to the discourse of postmodern theory
  9. Stephenson
    1. Snow Crash: Protagonist, a samurai-wielding pizza delivery boy
    2. The irony with which Snow Crash is written
  10. Conclusion
  11. Works cited

In Niel Brügger's essay ?What about the Postmodern?? Brügger relates Lyotard's idea of the narrative of emancipation, writing that ?[in such narratives] it is not only important to legitimate denotative statements, which fall into the sphere of truth, but also to legitimate prescriptive statements, which fall into the sphere of justice,? and that such grand narratives are ?no longer trustworthy? (80). In this paper I will first examine the function of the grand narrative in Don DeLillo's White Noise and will then examine grand narratives in a range of short fiction. DeLillo's characters, although espousing doctrines that would seem to subvert existing grand narratives, are building for themselves sets of new grand narratives, which are often precariously founded upon the old. There is a mediation at work in the text evident not just in the way Jack lives his life in the consumer world, bombarded by information, but also in the way Jack narrates this world. I will focus on how that narration is working.

[...] In the new narrative Kat has changed and is the same. She has undergone a physical transformation, if we can call it that, gaining a dimension, but clearly there is an absence in the gaining of the dimension. She has indeed brought with her a part of her previous narrative?an inherent element of repetition that she cannot seem to shed, urge return to the inanimate state?' (Freud qtd. in Rimmon-Kenan 155) of the two-dimensional. It is a perpetual three-dimension return to the two-dimensional. [...]

[...] White Noise seems to point toward the grand narrative of capitalism, consumer culture, mass media as the American narrative, while simultaneously inching toward an argument that dangerous grand narratives are being established even in contemporary antinarrative discourse, in postmodern discourse. This is the same danger that Jameson points toward. From Murray's Braudrillard-take on the most photographed barn in America and his parochial idea that its spectators are thus more-or-less autonomic drones to Heinrich's superrelativistic logic on whether or not it is raining outside (DeLillo an argument is developing that relativism and the naming of the narrative is a new form of narrative, one that is founded on absence. [...]

[...] In White Noise the new cult of the death and dying can be found not only in the now-traditional story of American consumerism but in the philosophies of simulating and commodifying the postmodern experience itself. To name the problem seems to not be enough. As Salyer writes, ?While language is both mythical and magical, the hollow centre that we seek evokes dread? (263). Indeed, Jack and Murray's deductions of the mediated American condition evoke not a new and creative way of seeing sign and signifier but dread for the not-there of these commodified interpretations, symptomatic of commodified signifiers. [...]

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