Mentor:Dr. Kyle Jensen
Research Topic:White Noises and Data Streams: Media Messages, Metaphors, and Environments in DeLillo and Shteyngart
Abstract:Contemporary literature is one fertile site upon which to investigate the effects of new media and technology—their hidden ideological biases, their influence upon patterns of thought and expression, and their role in the cultural imagination. To that end, I undertake a comparative analysis of two novels—Don DeLillo’s White Noise (1985) and Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story (2010)—within the framework of Marshall McLuhan’s media theory. To deploy McLuhan’s work is to foreground media as an active environment that is crucially constitutive of the novel’s internal context; to work within an expanded definition of media as all technological “extensions of ourselves”; and to consider the broader social and psychological changes that follow from technological change. I am interested in how human subjectivity is shaped by the tools we use— how the subject is the servo-mechanism of the device. I argue that a McLuhanist reading of White Noise elucidates a technological discourse in the novel that has been largely missed by critics who have focused solely on the novel’s quintessential implication in the postmodern condition. I also wish to introduce Super Sad True Love Story as a novel worthy of critical attention, as it articulates the anxieties and controversies of its technological zeitgeist as successfully as White Noise. Using each novel’s respective media environment as a foil for the other, I hope to explore how the novels’ central existential themes are shaped by an evolving mediascape as well as to illuminate the novels’ salient technological commentaries and critiques of new media.
Alma Mater:B.A. English | University of North Texas 2016
M.A. English | Pennsylvania State University 2018