Thomas Library

Honors Thesis Archive

Author Bret Nye
Title Searching for the Center: Intimations of Identity and the Authentic Self in DeLillo's White Noise and Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49
Department English
Advisor D. Scot Hinson, Robert Davis, Sheryl Cunningham
Year 2011
Honors Departmental Honors
Full Text View Thesis (158 KB)
Abstract According to Baudrillard, "It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody. It is rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself, that is, an operation to deter every real process by its operational double" which then serves to eradicate the very necessity of the real thing itself. This is the effect of the mass media, a world of references, signs, and simulacra so totalizing that they dominate reality and create what Baudrillard calls a "hyperreal" which has no basis in things but instead only in the representation of things. The presence of Baudrillard's simulation theory abounds in both White Noise and The Crying of Lot 49 and I am particularly interested in the way that both DeLillo and Pynchon treat the themes of identity and self in the face of a postmodern, Baudrillardian reality. In each novel the protagonists, akin to modernist heroes, are continuously searching and questing for themselves but what's exceptionally interesting in both novels is that they take place in decidedly postmodern times. I argue that DeLillo and Pynchon play with the concept of the decentralized self of postmodernity in their novels by presenting the way characters form into pre-packaged selves, the way many experiences, even the sacred and precious, can be explained as mere simulation through the ways that they are mediated and turned into narrative, and the way that the characters fail time and again to grasp and hold onto their inner truth, their original existence. However, I also argue that both DeLillo and Pynchon allow for the discovery of something under the surface of simulacra, the epiphany of the real outside of the world of the hyperreal.

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