Postmodern Angst

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Reading Don DeLillo’s story “Coming Sun. Mon. Tues.,” I found a parallel between modernist and postmodern fiction. There is a scene in Mrs. Dalloway where the narration fluidly shifts between the protagonist and other Londoners. Although the experiences of these figures are disparate, they are united by common spectacle – in this case a plane overhead advertising a product spelled by its contrails. A sense of community is formed. The postmodernist text, on the other hand, uses stream of consciousness in a different way, to affect the divorce of the individual from community. In the “information age,” we have more and more ways to interact with, and ostensibly become part of, communities via technology. It seems as though the act of representing oneself online should reinforce a sense of individuality and the sense of being part of a greater community. But the sheer amount of content available has the effect of trivializing both the individual and community. In the postmodernist reader introduction, the author mentions Umberto Eco’s assertion that, “we want to say things but our simultaneously aware … that they have been said before” (Nicol 4).

It seems to me that this sense of redundancy is a large factor in the alteration of our perception of authenticity, and subsequently the feeling that meaningful human interaction and community has been declining in recent years. Whereas in Woolf’s narrative the airplane unites the various figures, technology in DeLillo’s White Noise is a facet of the dehumanizing forces apparent to citizens of the “postmodern era.” The elitism and sense of progress (as producers of literature) espoused by many modernist authors is noticeably absent in DeLillo’s postmodernist screeds against the banality of consumerist culture. At one point, Murray, a character in White Noise, encapsulates the author’s postmodern angst, describing “the vast loneliness and dissatisfaction of consumers who have lost their group identity” (DeLillo 50).


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One thought on “Postmodern Angst”


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    Professor Sample says:

    I like how you contrast Woolf and DeLillo’s vision of the relationship between individuals and the community. Let’s keep an eye out for the ways different communities form and break-up in White Noise.

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