Spatial Tactics for Overcoming Trauma in Don DeLillo’s The Body Artist

Yazıcıoğlu S.

Tenth Biennial Conference of the Swedish Association for American Studies, Stockholm, Sweden, 28 - 30 September 2018, pp.37-38

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Stockholm
  • Country: Sweden
  • Page Numbers: pp.37-38
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


The Body Artist (2001) has a unique place among Don DeLillo’s works, which persistently address the ques- tion of subjectivity through open and closed spaces. Although the author has composed characters who fail to establish a new life in open spaces after they leave closed urban spaces (as in the contrast between the desert and the city from Americana onwards), this novel presents a performance artist who retreats from public life due to her trauma of losing her husband but leaves her domestic containment by transforming her experience into an artistic performance. Here, it is the immediate defensive response to the trauma’s threatening effects on the self’s integrity which leads the artist to seclusion; however, because of the house’s heterotopic quality and the artist’s spatial tactics, the trauma contained in the closed space and the artist’s body are transformed into art and shared with an audience. The closedness associated with isolation and domesticity finds an escape through the artist’s extreme stretching exercises, her encounter with the ghost- like Mr. Tuttle and her observations from outside her house, namely her alternative uses of her body and home. Besides its spatial openness, the novel has two symmetrical pairs of brackets which function as a critique of narrative closure, instead of being markers for the beginning and the end. By integrating the theories of space and trauma, this paper will argue that The Body Artist prioritizes trauma’s spatial dynamics, and will examine the ways in which it resists narrative and spatial closure.