The motel in the heart of every man: the transitional spaces of Don DeLillo

Baldwin, Adam (2015) The motel in the heart of every man: the transitional spaces of Don DeLillo. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This work illustrates the spatial nature of Don DeLillo’s writing. Through a reading of his work a network of societal spaces repeatedly occur and are utilised as locations within which to raise questions of the relationship between identity and mass society. The spaces that predominate produce the topography of his work. A network begins to develop, a series of nodal points joined by a connective tissue of pathways through which the discussion of society and identity pass. By focusing on both the nodal points themselves and the pathways that connect them the roles of motion, control and a potential counter-narrative appear. The individual spaces that DeLillo chooses as locations in his novels are relevant. Their placing in society, their means of construction and the materials of which they are constituted all illustrate the form of society which created them. In turn these spaces are observed to shape the characters that pass through them, in the process further expanding the network of societal associations.

The particular spatial forms that DeLillo focuses on reflect a transitional impulse, a desire for motion and speed rooted in anti-historicism. The suburb, the motel, and the highway are all born of the period which followed the Second World War which had a profound sociological, psychological and technological impact on society. The need to face the future, reject the past and repress the traumatic experiences of war led an experience of space and society which is transitional. The spaces are selected for their association with anxiety, trauma, nostalgia and consumption. The duality of these spaces epitomises the complexities of modern social identity. Due to the reflexive nature of transitionality cultural shifts impact upon its form, altering the way in which it appears and functions. The alleyway influences the development of the highway, the motel influences the development of the suburb, and the railway station affects the airport. The airport is an example of the manner in which technological advance change the appearance of these spaces but the themes and issues that are explored in them reflect consistent interests. Similarly, moments of great social import such as the Kennedy assassination and the attacks of 9/11 leave traces on these transitional spaces.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0700 Individual authors > PS3550 1961-2000 > PS3554.E4425 DeLillo, Don
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2015 05:52
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2015 13:02
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/54444

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