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

Jennifer K Ladino


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.


nature, nostalgia, DeLillo, postmodernism

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@Journal of Ecocriticism. ISSN 1916-1549