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International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences
Volume 50


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The Sublime in Don DeLillo’s Mao II

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The world that DeLillo’s characters live in is often portrayed with an inherent complexity beyond our comprehension, which ultimately leads to a quality of woe and wonder which is characteristic of the concept of the sublime. The inexpressibility of the events that emerge in DeLillo’s fiction has reintroduced into it what Lyotard calls “the unpresentable in presentation itself” (PC 81), or to put it in Jameson’s words, the “postmodern sublime” (38). The sublime, however, appears in DeLillo’s fiction in several forms and it is the aim of this study to examine these various forms of sublimity. It is attempted to read DeLillo’s Mao II in the light of theories of the sublime, drawing on figures like Burke, Kant, Lyotard, Jameson and Zizek. In DeLillo’s novel, it is no longer the divine and magnificent in nature that leads to a simultaneous fear and fascination in the viewers, but the power of technology and sublime violence among other things. The sublime in DeLillo takes many different names, ranging from the technological and violent to the hollow and nostalgic, but that does not undermine its essential effect of wonder; it just means that the sublime, like any other phenomenon, has adapted itself to the new conditions of representation. By drawing on the above mentioned theorists, therefore, the present paper attempts to trace the notion of sublimity in DeLillo's Mao II, to explore the transformation of the concept of the sublime under the current conditions of postmodernity as depicted in DeLillo’s fiction.


International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences (Volume 50)
N. Behrooz and H. Pirnajmuddin, "The Sublime in Don DeLillo’s Mao II", International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, Vol. 50, pp. 137-145, 2015
Online since:
Mar 2015

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