Don DeLillo’s early novels explore the relationship between formal logic and literary form. In End Zone, DeLillo uses tautology as a linguistic tactic of diminishment to advance a larger aesthetic strategy of repleteness. The novel says less to show more. As a result, End Zone, like many of DeLillo’s other early novels, frequently represents states of silence and unspeakability. DeLillo’s early fiction shares these concerns with Ludwig Wittgenstein’s early philosophy, particularly the remarks on tautology, silence, and the limits of language in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. In their conclusions, End Zone and the Tractatus analogously seek to undo themselves to overcome the inherent limitations of logic and language.
The Self-Erasing Word: Tautology and Unspeakability in DeLillo’s End Zone
Michael LeMahieu is associate professor of English at Clemson University. He is the author of Fictions of Fact and Value: The Erasure of Logical Positivisim in AmericanLiterature, 1945–1975 (2013), coeditor of the volume Wittgenstein and Modernism (2017), and coeditor of the journal Contemporary Literature. He is the recipient of a 2017–18 ACLS Fellowship and a 2018–19 NEH Fellowship.
Michael LeMahieu; The Self-Erasing Word: Tautology and Unspeakability in DeLillo’s End Zone. Poetics Today 1 March 2020; 41 (1): 117–139. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-7974128
Download citation file: