A Postmodern Ethics: Moral Ambivalence in Don DeLillo's “White Noise”

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Beginning with an overview of the conceptual establishments of “ethics” and “morals”, and what Immanuel Kant has contributed to the modern ethical perspective, this article briefly surveys the modernist ethical thought and in what way it is challenged throughout the postmodern age, as the postmodernist ethical aspect assumes basically an ontological approach which emphasizes an entirely different relationship between “I, the other, and the third”. In this context, the moral stance of the characters in Don DeLillo’s famous novel, White Noise, is scrutinized around the concept of ‘moral ambivalence’ as well as discussing the characters’ moral choices in relation with man’s ‘death fear’, and the artificial relief provided by the never ending ‘technological progress’ which are slightly referred to as the supporting aspects of the main point presented as “moral ambivalence” in this article. ‘Death fear’ and ‘technological progress’ are conveyed as the extensions of man’s pursuing a concrete meaning of life in today’s world where man faces various unexpected problems s/he is unable to deal with, since they do not fit the patterns of the rationalist order and reason. DeLillo uses his own narrative technique and expresses with a specific sense of humor, man’s disappointment in being left helpless and alone despite the promising “Grand Narratives”of the era.


Keywords: Postmodern Ethics, Morals, Moral Ambiquity, I & the Other, Grand Narratives
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , Postmodern Ethics,


Dr Serpil Tunçer

Lecturer, American Culture and Literature Department
Faculty of Letters, İstanbul University,

İstanbul, Turkey

Serpil Tunçer is a lecturer at the American Culture and Literature Department of the Faculty of Letters, İstanbul University. Having graduated from the faculty of Political Sciences, İstanbul University, she received a M.A. degree on “The Feminine Gothic in Joyce Carol Oates’ Short Fiction”, from the department of American Culture and Literature, at the same university. She has published several articles in literary magazines and made several presentations on the Feminine Gothic. She has been a member of the editing board of a Turkish cultural-literary magazine for eight years and during these years she has translated several books and her poems, short stories, translated stories and critical writings have been published in various magazines and in the one she edited. She is to receive her Ph.D. in June, 2008. Her Ph.D. dissertation is titled, “The Moral Challenge of Characters in Don DeLillo’s Selected Works as Regards the Ethics in the Postmodern Era.” She currently attends lectures such as Translation of American Literary Texts and The Gothic Tradition and Literature. Her main fields of interest are interdisciplinary studies in American Literature, American Gothic Literature, and Postmodern American Literature.

Ref: H08P0630