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Liquid globalisation and connectivity in Don DeLillo's Underworld
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 20:52 authored by Roland Ellis
The notion of connectivity is at the very core of DeLillo's novel Underworld (1997). Indeed, the novel's most cited dictum -- "everything is connected in the end" (826) -- forms the theoretical mantra that DeLillo works toward in his sweeping overview of Cold War and post-Cold War America. But how do we best understand this narrative of seemingly endless points of connection between characters, contexts, motifs? Thomas Friedman's analysis of post-Cold War Globalisation in The lexus and the olive tree (1999) provides a way of considering narratives of connection as indicative of a contemporary integration of individuals, markets and nation-states into a globalised, free-market capitalist network; while sociologist Zygmunt Bauman's Liquid modernity (2000) constructs a more theoretical overview of the post-Cold War condition that provides a way of interpreting the diffuse nature of contemporary social bonds. Taken together, these two theoretical approaches construct a way of understanding the post-Cold War world as subject to what I call 'liquid globalisation'; and I will argue that it is a liquid globalisation framework that provides the soundest basis for understanding the dominant narrative at work in DeLillo's text. I begin by examining how Underworld’s post-Cold War spatial and social organisation reflects Friedman and Bauman’s respective constructions of the globalised context. Then I look at the role of recycling in the text, specifically how DeLillo constructs his central characters as advocates of recycling as opposed to waste creation, thus reinforcing the notion that integration with the dominant socio-economic paradigm of globalisation is a core principle of the post-Cold War condition. Finally, I consider how Underworld works as a historical narrative that charts the evolution of liquid globalisation over a number of years, from a foundation in nuclear rather than information technology. The main aim of this thesis is to add a liquid-global dimension to the growing critical corpus that aligns Underworld with post-Cold War Globalisation rather than postmodernity.