Ronan McKinney

Ronan McKinneyE-mail address:
Home institution:
University of Sussex, England
Academic position: 
PhD Candidate, School of English
Areas of research: 
Aesthetics and catastrophe, trauma, the sublime, psychoanalysis, reference and representation in text and image, painting after photography
Title of the presentation: Real Time: DeLillo, Gordon, Hitchcock


Most important Publications

  • ?Luc Tuymans and the Monstrance of September 11?, Textual
    Practice, forthcoming

Title of the presentation

Real Time: DeLillo, Gordon, Hitchcock


This was the point. To see what?s here, finally to look and to know you?re
looking, to feel time passing, to be alive to the smallest registers of motion.
(DeLillo, Point Omega: 6-7).

Don DeLillo?s 21st century writing displays a distinctive style marked by a pared-down, distilled clarity. This work deepens DeLillo?s investigation of the function and significance of the aesthetic in contemporary culture. The focus has shifted from his previous interest in the production of art toward a new emphasis on the nature of aesthetic experience. Works such as The Body Artist (2001), Falling Man (2007) and Point Omega (2010) offer a detailed investigation of the staging of subjectivity in aesthetic experience, and the complex temporality enfolded therein.

This paper will attempt to reach toward an understanding of how the aesthetic operates in late DeLillo by paying close attention to the encounters with art described there. Specifically, it will investigate the framing of the aesthetic in DeLillo?s recent texts as a staging of the subject?s knowledge of its own temporal existence. By examining how the protagonists experience time through their encounter with various modes of art ? performance, painting, film ? I suggest that the slowing or suspension of time in art paradoxically makes time an object of perception.

I will suggest that DeLillo?s writing works to produce in the reader a similar suspension or slowing of time to that being described in the text. In so doing, DeLillo?s text becomes both a description and an enactment of the thing described; the perception of time as an aesthetic experience. In idealist philosophy (e.g. Kant) the subject is affirmed through the temporal consistency of its perceptions; I experience myself as a unified subject of the experience of art. From a phenomenological standpoint (e.g. Merleau-Ponty), perception precedes self-consciousness and tends to disturb boundaries of self and other, inside and outside. The aesthetic thus stages both the coherence of the self-conscious subject and the limits of that coherence. The complex nexus of projection and embodiment, suspension and duration, assimilation and repetition involved in looking at an image or a performing body tends to both reinforce self-consciousness and undo self-presence. In light of this I ask; what are the consequences for DeLillo?s spectator/reader of their aesthetic removal from the flow of ordinary experience, and their subsequent experience of time itself as object?

? Back to Participants