White Noise

Originality and the Literary 'Readymade’ in Don DeLillo’s White Noise College

Toyota Celica / A long moment passed before I realized this was the name of an automobile…The utterance was beautiful and mysterious, gold-shot with looming wonder. It was like the name of an ancient power in the sky.’

The twentieth century was characterized by a shift in aesthetics in which craft is largely replaced by concept. The advances of Futurism, Surrealism, and Dada had all distanced an appreciation of art from the Platonic understanding that has dominated so large a span of Western culture. Plato’s hierarchy of the Forms, in which the beautiful indicates the good has largely given way to the utilization of the prosaic, allowing for artistic significance within the crude and the manufactured. The connotations of liturgy attached to DeLillo’s ‘Toyota Celica’ utterance communicate this shift. His juxtaposition is explicit, endowing the branded and the mass-produced with near religious significance. As Fredric Jameson points out, this correlation between the sublime and the bathetic, between ‘high culture’ and ‘mass or commercial’ culture has dominated the expansion of post-modernism. However, what makes De Lillo’s passage so intriguing is not the suggestion that the ‘low’ can serve as the subject of art, but that it can...

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