“Local Yearnings”: Re-Placing Nostalgia in Don DeLillo’s _Underworld_


  • Jennifer K Ladino Creighton University


nature, nostalgia, DeLillo, postmodernism


Many scholars have read DeLillo’s fiction as an illustration of “how conflicting postmodern practices collide” (Parrish 697). In this essay, I proceed from the recognition that the nature-culture binary is more fluid than ever and situate DeLillo as a theorist not only of postmodern culture but also of postmodern nature. I examine DeLillo’s most ambitious and complex novel, Underworld, through the lens of green cultural studies—a phrase I prefer to “ecocriticism” because it resonates with cultural studies’ interdisciplinarity, ideology critique, and attention to power. Combining a cultural studies methodology with more traditional ecocritical strategies, green cultural studies confronts networks of power while exploring the socio-environmental dimensions of a given text. A green cultural studies approach is particularly well-suited to addressing the novel’s compelling, often confounding, refractions of the postnatural condition. Using this critical framework, I suggest that this simultaneously nostalgic and ironic text, characterized by an alternately worshipful and irreverent treatment of nature, both maps and engenders a radicalized postmodern nostalgia—nostalgia with a critical edge. Unlike critics (such as Renato Rosaldo, William Cronon and others) who have theorized nostalgia’s limitations, Underworld shows how nostalgia can be harnessed and utilized in the service of social and environmental critique.

Author Biography

Jennifer K Ladino, Creighton University

Jennifer Ladino is an assistant professor at Creighton University. Her teaching and research focus on 20th century American literature and culture, with an emphasis on representations of nature - understood as landscape, symbol, everyday environment, or simply "space." She has published articles on Zitkala-Sa, Marianne Moore, and Ruth Ozeki, and she is at work on a book that examines nostalgia for nature in American literature and culture since the closing of the frontier.




How to Cite

Ladino, J. K. (2010). “Local Yearnings”: Re-Placing Nostalgia in Don DeLillo’s _Underworld_. Journal of Ecocriticism, 2(1), 1–18. Retrieved from https://ojs.unbc.ca/index.php/joe/article/view/50