Postmodern Orientalized Terrorism: Don DeLillo’s The Names

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor Isfahan University, Isfahan

2 M. A., TEFL Isfahan University, Isfahan


The terrorism of obscurantism is one of the hallmarks of Don DeLillo’s The Names (1982), distinguishing it as one of the "difficult writings" in his canon. Terrorism, however, is not confined to the novel’s poetics of writing, it constitutes, as the arch-motif of the novel, its politics as well. Relying on the Orientalist bulk of knowledge about the Orient, DeLillo, in this novel, inaugurates a Neo-orientalist trend in American postmodern fiction: generalizing the images of "Arab" terrorists to Iranians, paving the way for further Orientalist (mis)representations in future American fictions. DeLillo’s narrative, however, is by no means all-inclusive; rather, it is marked with some discursive gaps which destabilize the novel’s political claims on the "truth" of the terrorism under discussion. In this paper, first, through an intertextual reading, the novel’s ambiguous re-enactment of and departure from Orientalist discourse is explored, and then, it is argued that by making Iranians the objects of Orientalist representation, the writer expands the horizons of the discourse of terrorism. Besides, DeLillo’s anti-totalizing totalizational gesture in both undermining the Orientalist discourse and at the same time legitimizing it —what makes the novel thematically, or precisely saying politically, postmodern— is brought to light.