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Ordinary Madness

Don DeLillo’s Subject from ‚Underworld‘ to ‚Point Omega‘

Alexander Dunst

Pages 35 - 49


This article contends that Don DeLillo’s novels from ‚Underworld to Point Omega‘ are centrally concerned with changes in the structure of subjectivity under contemporary capitalism. The essay analyzes these developments from a late Lacanian perspective: as a shift from a dominant neurosis to what Jacques-Alain Miller has called “ordinary psychosis”. Over the years, a few of DeLillo’s critics have problematized a standard account of his characters as postmodern, suggesting that the author was in the process of crafting “a new kind of subjectivity”. However, none of these scholars have taken the prominence of psychotic protagonists in his novels as a starting point to analyze DeLillo’s fiction. Madness thus plays an important but overlooked role in the author’s oeuvre. After briefly considering DeLillo’s earlier writing, the discussion concentrates on three representative novels: ‚Underworld, The Body Artist‘ and ‚Point Omega‘. Where ‚Underworld‘ focuses on paranoia, ‚The Body Artist‘ moves ordinary psychosis to the center of DeLillo’s imagination, a development whose social impact is explored further in the final novel. The article counters traditional conceptions of insanity as irrational and pathological with an emphasis on the structural role madness plays in DeLillo. This reassessment counters a critical tradition that often views insanity as a sign of deep-seated illness, or opposes pathology by naively romanticizing it. The conclusion situates the analysis in the broader framework of the medical humanities.


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