Daniel Fish’s ambitious string of classics-tackling continues with White Noise – following, of course, his Tony-winning revival of Oklahoma!

For his loosely-inspired staging of DeLillo’s White Noise, he takes DeLillo’s interspersed lists as a starting point. Here’s the first paragraph of the book:

The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus. In single file they eased around the orange I-beam sculpture and moved toward the dormitories. The roofs of the station wagons were loaded down with carefully secured suitcases full of light and heavy clothing; with boxes of blankets, boots and shoes, stationary and books, sheets, pillows, quilts; with rolled-up rugs and sleeping bags; with bicycles, skis, rucksacks, English and Western saddles, inflated rafts. As cars slowed to a crawl and stopped, students sprang out and raced to the rear doors to begin removing the objects inside; the stereo sets, radios, personal computers; small refrigerators and table ranges; the cartons of phonograph records and cassettes; the hairdryers and styling irons; the tennis rackets, soccer balls, hockey and lacrosse sticks, bows and arrows; the controlled substances, the birth control pills and devices; the junk food still in shopping bags –  onion-and-garlic chips, nacho thins, peanut creme patties, Waffles and Kabooms, fruit chews and toffee popcorn; the Dum-Dum pops, the Mystic mints.

Read more about the show in Professor Joshua Williams’ Indefinite Article. And pick up a copy of DeLillo’s book for the NYU Skirball Book Club!

Office Hours

Get Into It

White Noise/Weisses Rauschen - 10 minute excerpt
An excerpt of "White Noise"

Get Thee to the LIbrary

Recommended readings to accompany the Indefinite Article by Joshua Williams.

Dennis Cutchins, Katja Krebs, Eckart Voigts (eds), The Routledge Companion to Adaptation. Routledge, 2018.

Katherine Da Cunha Lewin and Kiron Ward (eds), Don DeLillo: Contemporary Critical Perspectives. Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. 

Don DeLillo, White Noise. Penguin Orange Collection, 2016.

John N. Duvall, The Cambridge Companion to Don DeLillo. Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Patrice Pavis, Contemporary Mise en Scène: Staging Theatre Today. Routledge, 2013.

White Noise: The Novel

DeLillo’s National Book Award-winner is a contender for that hefty title, Great American Novel.His depiction of America is not a flattering one, that grows more relevant as it ages.

For another still-too-relevant contender for both Great American Novel and G.O.A.T, pick up Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998), available with gorgeous new covers and an introduction from Gloria Steinem.

Octavia Butler's Parable set covers
Los Angeles Times | Jan 3, 2010

Richard Rayner: Tuning back in to ‘White Noise’

A theme of “White Noise” is how difficult it is to grasp the world or use the mass of information that bombards us.

NYU Skirball Book Club

White Noise by Don DeLillo

Meet in the NYU Skirball lobby at 6:30PM, Friday, Sept 20 for happy hour drinks and an informal discussion of DeLillo’s White Noise before seeing Fish’s White Noise.

White Noise: The Noise

Mental Floss | Mar 1, 2016

Michele Debczak: Why Is White Noise 'White'?

Just like the visual noise that disrupts an otherwise clear image, noise in audio engineering is used to describe anything interfering with the intended sound.

The Atlantic | Feb 16, 2016

Meghan Neal: The Many Colors of Sound

Technically, the whirl of a fan or hum of the AC isn’t white noise at all. Many of the sounds we associate with white noise are actually pink noise, or brown, or green, or blue.

Whiteness Studies

Trace the rise of “whiteness studies” in the past 25 years, through this series of articles from the Chronicle of Higher Ed. (These are often contentious op-ed pieces, so explore for the full context!)

Nov 25, 1992

The Debate on Race, Class, Gender in American Studies

“For some of us, the conference raised the question: How much is American studies still white studies?” said Ronald Takaki, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

June 5, 1998

Bridging the Gap with 'Whiteness Studies'

“Whiteness studies,” a much-discussed new branch of ethnic studies, may help bridge the gap between the cultural left’s focus on identity and the traditional left’s emphasis on economic justice, writes Homi K. Bhabha.

July 4, 2010

Who Gets to Define Ethnic Studies?

Perhaps we should also ask one question not anticipated by the news media, political pundits, or Arizona legislators: Is white studies in violation of HB 2281?

Sep 8, 1995

New Field of "Whiteness Studies" Challenges a Racial "Norm"

Mention race and racism to many white people, and they will say those issues have nothing to do with them… This is the kind of thinking that intrigues a group of scholars who are working in a new and growing field, the study of “whiteness.”

Jan 13, 2006

Students Identified as Being of 'Unknown' Race Tend to Be White, Study Finds

According to the report’s authors, their findings suggest that colleges are admitting fewer minority students than previously thought.

Feb 6, 2012

Should We Study White People?

How often have I had to tell white students that they must discuss race in their papers only to have them respond “but there is no race. Everyone I’m studying is white.”

Apr 4, 1997

"Whiteness" Scholars to Meet at Major Conference at Berkeley

According to its organizers,”The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness” is the first national conference to bring together scholars from several disciplines to discuss the topic.

July 14, 2006

Whiteness and Its Complications

Thandeka’s insistence on naming whiteness counters what scholars have called the “invisibility” of the… race’s political and cultural presence.

Nov 16, 2016

What Now? Scholars respond to Trump

But what would later become the alt-right argued for a different sort of white studies on campus — one that celebrated European-based, predominantly Anglo-Saxon culture.

The Most Photographed Barn in America

All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides – pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.

“No one sees the barn,” he said finally… “We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.”…

Another silence ensued.

“They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said.

– Don DeLillo, White Noise

People taking photos of the Mona Lisa
New York Times | Apr 27, 2018

What the Mona Lisa Tells Us About Art in the Instagram Era

“I can see it better in a book or on the internet.”

The Guardian | Sep 17, 2018

Why is Instagram making people so miserable?

The very positivity of Instagram is precisely the problem.

New York Times | Aug 12, 2019

Want to See the Mona Lisa? Get in Line

“You have to take a photo to be able to appreciate her.”

Extra Credit

The protagonist of DeLillo’s White Noise is a professor of Hitler studies, which may have been something of a joke at the time it was written, but which also speaks to the deeply rooted white supremacist foundations of America that have been hiding in plain sight.

Let’s take this opportunity to spend some time thinking about Anne Frank and her legacy instead. This 1997 article in the New Yorker gives an impassioned argument not only for the importance of Frank’s writing, but the many ways we have failed her in the years following her death.

The New Yorker | Sept 28, 2007

Cynthia Ozick: Who Owns Anne Frank?

The diary has been distorted by even her greatest champions. Would history have been better served if it had been destroyed? … To believe that the diary was “a song to life” is to stew in an ugly innocence.