Toward a Transformative Democratic Literary Aesthetic: The Late Style of Don Delillo

Master's Thesis


The literature of Don DeLillo is illuminated in conversation with political, literary and film theory and philosophy. From Edward Said’s On Late Style, the idea of ‘late style’ reveals a period of DeLillo’s literature that proves to be - as F.O. Matthiessen wrote in the American Renaissance - “literature for democracy.” Beginning with pragmatic criticism on DeLillo the contemporary authorship, the essay examines the possibility of his late style - from the essays (“The Power of History,” “In the Ruins of the Future,” “Woman in the Distance, and "Counterpoint”) and short stories (“Baader-Meinhof”) to his novels (Cosmopolis and Falling Man) - as a transformative literary aesthetic. Specifically of interest is the concept of literary experience as drawn from the hermeneutics of Paul Ricoeur and Hans-Georg Gadamer which, when examined in the context of radical and transformational democracy - engaging the writings of a diverse selection of thinkers from Hannah Arendt, Pierre Rosanvallon, Jaques Rancière, Amy Gutman, Marian Iris Young and Alexis de Tocqueville to the New York Intellectuals, D.H. Lawrence and members of the Frankfurt school - reveals the possibility through an innovative and conceptual form of, borrowing again from Said, a “democratic and meta-humanistic literature.” Indeed, placed in dialogue with its antecedents - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman and Ralph Ellison - DeLillo’s unconventional late work offers its reader an opportunity for access to the self, advancing agency, facilitating autonomous engagement and autopoesis. Literature, then, might be ‘democratic’ not merely for its overt content or in its educating citizens for ‘meaningful’ participation, but also as a result of the democratic character or qualities of its aesthetic, its engendering in its reception active engagement, and the transformative potential of this process, in addition to the translation of these democratic qualities - i.e., aesthetic dissent - into social or political practice - i.e., political, social dissent - and liberation of self and society from the imperial and hegemonic fixity of despotic and fatal narrative.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-07242009-172925

Author Louis Francesco Pignatelli
Advisor Collin Meissner
Contributor Joseph A. Buttigieg, Committee Member
Contributor Sandra Gustafson, Committee Member
Contributor Collin Meissner, Committee Chair
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline English
Degree Name Master of Arts
Defense Date
  • 2009-07-24

Submission Date 2009-07-24
  • United States of America

  • jump-cut

  • Kenneth Burke

  • LeClair

  • Halton

  • Gustafson

  • Underworld

  • Enck-Warzner

  • ijtihad

  • Loden

  • Boxall

  • montage

  • Godard

  • humanism

  • Cowart

  • David Foster Wallace

  • Glenn Gould

  • Meissner.

  • Giorgio Morandi

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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