Mediation Through the Dead in White Noise and the Poetry of Robert Lowell

Sam Krueger


“All plots tend to move deathward. This is the nature of plots,” muses Jack Gladney rather mysteriously at one point in White Noise. In his inspired and original essay, Sam Krueger takes Jack at his word, invoking the motif of death to argue convincingly that there are significant parallels between Don DeLillo’s novel and Robert Lowell’s 1964 volume, For the Union Dead. A late modernist confessional poet like Lowell and postmodern comic satirist like DeLillo might seem to make unlikely gravemates, but Krueger discovers some surprising affinities. Both Jack and Lowell are struggling with “the burden of their consciousness,” he argues, and for both, death plays an important role in that struggle. Throughout the novel, Jack is striving to find ways to overcome his fear of death; Lowell, more complexly, turns to a “union with dead writers [which] has the effect of sustaining life.” The paradoxical conclusion that both seem finally to come to is that, as Krueger nicely puts it, “a meaningful life means a meaningful death; the two are inextricably linked.” —Dr. David H. Evans

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