Remember, we’re on Book Club time – – so no class on Wed., May 10. Instead, finish reading Don Delillo’s White Noise for our next meeting on Monday, May 15.
Remember also: you can drop your Larsen assignment off in my mailbox in HUM 125 or at my office in HUM 553 on Wed., May 10 by 5 p.m.
As you finish reading Delillo’s novel, keep track of different versions of “white noise.” We talked a bit about the definition of white noise in class on Monday. Here’s a helpful, somewhat technical definition of white noise in communication theory: “In media theory and electronics, noise refers to random, unpredictable, and undesirable signals, or changes in signals, that mask desired information content. More generally anything that works against a message reaching its destination. In this sense even the ‘distortions produced in one’s handwriting in a moving train can be attributed to “noise”’ (Lyons Introd.Theoretical Linguistics ii. 1953, OED). Noises interfere with the intelligibility of a signal and decrease its usefulness.”
Delillo’s novel is full of white noise. Some examples might include: the “remote and steady murmur” (4) of traffic on the highway behind the Gladney’s house; the random noise of the smoke alarm (8); the supermarket “awash in noise” and “a dull and unlocatable roar” (36). And, perhaps more metaphorically: Murray’s assertion that the supermarket is full of “psychic data . . . Energy waves, incident radiation” (37); Alfonse Stompanato’s argument that “[w]e need an occasional catastrophe to break up the incessant bombardment of information” (65); the family “as a cradle of the world’s misinformation” (81); and, even Jack’s frequent, odd invocations of brands and trade names, i.e. “MasterCard, Visa, American Express” (99), “Leaded, unleaded, super unleaded” (189), etc.
As you finish the novel, keep track of examples of white noise. Come to class with five good examples of “white noise” – – literal or figurative from the last half of the book. As you collect your examples, think about this question: according to the narrative, is white noise an enemy or ally authentic human relation and communication?