White Noise and American Culture


IC Library Print and Media Resources

Recommended Subject Searches

     For information about individual authors, enter a Subject search on the author: last name, first name. Most of the critical material will be found under the subheading “Criticism and interpretation,” but many other subheadings are possible for an author.  

DeLillo, Don--Criticism and interpretation

     Always run an Author search on an individual writer you’re researching. Although you may already have the text or texts you’ll be focusing on, Author searches often turn up interesting materials that can’t be accessed through Subject searches.  (In the case of DeLillo there doesn't yet happen to be anything beyond the fiction--and a play--but it still might give you a better sense of his writing career).

     Much of the most recent and authoritative criticism on an author, as well as materials with a period or topic focus, may be best accessed using broad Subject headings. Below is a small cross-section of Subject headings that could be useful for research on an American writer in the second half of the twentieth century and also for some of the themes of White Noise:
American literature
American literature--History and criticism
American literature--History and criticism--Theory, etc.
American literature--20th century--History and criticism
American fiction--20th century--History and criticism
Fiction--20th century--History and criticism
Literature, Modern--20th century--History and criticism
Modernism (Literature)
Modernism (Literature)--United States
Postmodernism (Literature)
Postmodernism (Literature)--United States
Postmodernism--Social aspects

Mass media and culture
Mass media and culture--United States
Mass media--Influence
Mass media--Social aspects--United States
Mass media--United States
Health in mass media
Television and family--United States
Television broadcasting--Social aspects
Television broadcasting--Social aspects--United States
Television broadcasting--United States
Television--Social aspects--United States
Television broadcasting of news--United States
Tabloid newspapers--United States
Popular culture--United States

Social values--United States
United States Social conditions 1960-
United States--Social conditions--1960-1980
United States--Social conditions--1980-
United States--Social life and customs--1945-1970
United States--Social life and customs--1971-
United States--Civilization--1945-
United States--Civilization--1970-
Civilization, Modern--1950-
Technology and civilization
National characteristics, American
National characteristics, American, in literature

Marriage--United States
Marriage--United States--History--20th century
Family--United States
Family--United States--History--20th century
Divorce--United States
Remarriage--United States
Stepfamilies--United States

Death--Psychological aspects
Death--Social aspects
Death--Social aspects--United States
Diagnostic imaging--History

Consumption (Economics)--Social aspects
Consumption (Economics)--United States
Consumption (Economics)--United States--History--20th century
Consumers--United States
Consumers--United States--Attitudes
Consumer behavior--United States
Brand name products
Television advertising
Television advertising--United States
Advertising--Psychological aspects
Food industry and trade
Food habits--United States
Pharmaceutical industry--United States

Environmental health
Environmentally induced diseases
Environmental toxicology
Environmental degradation
Hazardous substances
Hazardous wastes--United States
Disasters--Press coverage--United States
Disaster medicine
Emergency management
Communication in public health
Emergency medical services--United States
Crisis management

Education, Higher--Aims and objectives
Education, Higher--Aims and objectives--United States
Education, Higher--Philosophy
Education, Higher--Social aspects--United States
Education, Higher--United States
Education, Higher--United States--Philosophy
College teachers--United States
College teaching
College teaching--United States

Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Influence.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), in literature
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Moral and ethical aspects
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Psychological aspects
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Study and teaching
Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945

Thought and thinking
Social evolution
Social change--United States--History--20th century

Virtual reality
Semiotics          [communication via signs and symbols]
Simulation methods--Philosophy
Imagery (Psychology))
Visual perception
Visual communication
Visual literacy
Media literacy
Technological literacy
Information theory

IC Library Databases (Articles)

Thematic Topics

     General OneFile : is the most user-friendly of our comprehensive databases, covering almost any topic from a wide range of disciplinary angles and offering lots of full text. Use the default Subject search to find the best subject heading for your topic (and when you find a good one be sure to look at the "Related Subjects" to see if there's something even better).
     When you settle on a subject heading, open the "Subdivisions" link below it. Most General OneFile subject searchs produce very large retrievals and the "subdivisions" help you narrow your search to a particular aspect: "Economic aspects," "Ethical aspects," "Forecasts and Trends," "History," "Media Coverage," "Political aspects," "Psychological aspects," "Social aspects," and "Statistics," to name only a few.
     If the best available subdivision is still too broad, open it and add your own Keywords in the "Search within these results" slot at the upper left.

     ProQuest Research Library : is another comprehensive database with substantial full text. When opening, click on "Continue"--there's usually no need to choose a narrower subdivision--and at the home page click on the "More Search Options" tab at the bottom to see all available search fields.
     Note that you can limit your retrieval by "Document Type," including "Cover story," "Editorial," or "Interview."
     Above each set of articles you retrieve ProQuest will display related Subject searches to help either broaden or narrow your focus.

   Communication SourceSocINDEX with Full Text : Excellent databases for media, social, and cultural issues. Click on the "Subject Terms" link above the search slots to find which Subject Headings will work here. Double click any Heading for a list of broader, narower, and related Subject Terms.

     PsycINFO :  The American Psychological Association use their own Subject vocabulary (called "Descriptors"), so a visit to the "Thesaurus" below the search slots is a good idea. If you find an article on exactly what you want, be sure to check the assigned "Descriptors" on the right of the citation for more ideas about useful search terms.  

      JSTOR : covers a wide range of scholarly journals in most disciiplines, always beginning with the first issue of each one.  This provides 100% full text access to articles from not only the first half of the 20th century but even the second half of the 19th.  Be aware, however, that at the other end of the date range articles don't appear in JSTOR until at least 2-3 years after publication.
     JSTOR offers only a Keyword search of its complete full text, so retrievals are large, but the relevancy ranking does a good job of putting the strongest matches on the first few pages.  This relevancy ranking does not weigh date, however, and will display a mix of articles written decades apart.  So if your topic is time sensitive, be alert to publication dates.
     The academic journals covered here feature numerous book reviews, so it's a good idea to tic the "Article" limit below the search slots so you won't be overwhelmed by book reviews on your topic.  

     Project Muse : Although a smaller database, complements JSTOR. LIke JSTOR it provides 100% full text of mostly scholarly journals, but its coverage is entirely current--mainly spanning the last 10-15 years. Although all articles in Porject Muse are assigned Library of Congress Subject Headings, you cannot enter a Subject search as such.  Your options are to  "Browse Subject Headings" to the right of the search slots or enter a Subject Heading in the "All fields except text" field.    And as with JSTOR it's a good idea to limit your search to "Articles Only" by checking that box beneath the search slots--to weed out reviews of books on your topic.

     ScienceDirect : Because it’s a large database with a great deal of full text, the absence of Subject searching means that your Keyword searches will often retrieve large sets of articles, many of which mention but don’t discuss your search term(s). One way around this is to limit your initial search to the “Abstract Title Keyword” field. Once you have found an article that sounds on-target, click the “Related Articles” link beneath the citation This will open a range of articles on the same topic.
    Don't settle for the default "Quick Search"--open "Search" for the full range of options. Among thse you can uncheck "All books," which is recommended if you're looking for articles.  And if you open the "Dates" drop-down menu you'll find a much wider range of options than the default 10 year span.

    Philosopher's Index : No full text, but the “ArticleLinker” arrows at the end of each citation will connect to scholarly full text in our other databases--making this an efficient one-stop search for ethics, political philosophy, metaphysics, and logic.

Literary Criticism

     MLA International Bibliography  is accessible through Literature Online (see above) but some people find this stand-alone interface clearer and easier to navigate.

  • Because it is so large and international, setting search limits can help focus your results. Note that you can enter a "Language of Publication" (worth doing if you read only English) and "Limit" your search to "Journal articles" and/or "Book articles" (if you leave the default on "All," you may retrieve a lot of pesky dissertation abstracts.
  • There is no full text here, but the ArticleLInker (green arrow) link after each citation will connect you to any full text available from another IC database or alert you to a print copy in the IC Library.
  • The most useful searches will be “Author’s Work”—essentially a Subject search on a poem, play, short story, or novel title—and “Author as Subject.”
  • Be sure to take a look at the “Advanced Search” options (the link is right above the first Keyword search slot). In Advanced Search you can search by “Genre,” “Literary Theme,” Literary Influence” (people and things that influenced the author you’re researching), and “Literary Source” (the influence the author you’re researching has had on others).
  • Note that when entering a Subject, Genre, Literary Theme, Literary Influence, or Literary Source search, there is a “Thesaurus” link to the right of each slot where you can check to see what terms the MLA Bibliography uses.

     JSTOR  has excellent 100% full-text coverage of literary scholarship. There is no Subject searching, so remember to put titles and authors' names in quotation marks to search them as Keyword phrases--and leave authors' names in the normal first-name last-name order. Set "Limit" to "Article"--or else you may unleash an avalanche of reviews of books on your topic.
     JSTOR access to journal articles begins 2-4 years prior to the present--so don't look for any criticism from the last couple of years--but coverage always extends back to the first issue of each journal--in some cases into the 19th century and beyond.  

     Project Muse , although a smaller database, complements JSTOR. LIke JSTOR it provides 100% full text of mostly scholarly journals, but its coverage is entirely current--mainly spanning the last 8-10 years. And unlike JSTOR it not only allows Subject searching, it uses Library of Congress Subject Headings to catalog all its articles, so whatever Subject terms work in the IC Library catalog will work here as well.  A Search on Hemingway as a Subject retrieves over 150 recent scholarly articles.  And as with JSTOR it's a good idea to limit your search to "Articles Only" by checking that box beneath the search slots.  Try a Subject search on DeLillo, Don and then "search within the results" for "White Noise" as a Keyword phrase.

     ProQuest Research LibraryAcademic Search Premier  are comprehensive databases  and include considerable literary criticism--much of it full text. In running searches on authors, don't settle for a Keyword search on the author's name, as this will retrieve too many articles in which the author is only mentioned in passing. Instead use the specialized Subject search each provides. In ProQest open the "More Search Options" tab and enter the name, last name first, in the "Person" slot. In Academic Search Premier open the "Select a Field" drop down menu and search the name, last name first, in the "People" field.
     In both databases the titles of literary works must be searched as Keyword phrases, so be sure to put them in quotation marks.
     In both databases you can set a "Document Type" limit to "Interview"--if it's a contemporary writer.    And for a contemporary writer you might also try an "Author" search, since many writers publish criticism and social commentary that might shed light on their creative work.

     Ebook Central (formerly ebrary) is IC's database of 50,000 full text online books.  Because DeLillo's culture criticism is wide-ranging, he and his work are often discussed in books that are not primarily literary criticism, and so full-text Keyword searching becomes a real advantage here.  Run a Keyword search on--delillo and "white noise."  Both deLillo and "white noise" will display in a block of color, and all you have to do is keep clicking the question-mark-with-right-pointing-arrow button at the top to fast forward through all the pages on which one of your search terms appears.

      General OneFile  is another comprehensive database with considerable literary criticism, but the default Subject search forcess you to retrieve EVERYTHING on a particular author. The standard "subdivisions" by which General OneFile organizes these results--"Ethical Aspects," Political Aspects," "Social Aspects"--are broad in respect to authors.
     If you wish to focus on a particular a theme, the best strategy is to open all the results from the initial Subject search and then use the the "Search within these Results" slot at the upper left to enter thematic Keywords.
     If you wish to focus on a specific literary work, open "Advanced Search" and in the "Select Index" box choose "Named Work": this allows you to run a Subject search on a title.

     provides full-text online books on individual authors featuring criticism more sophisticated than Cliff Notes, but far less ambitious than most of the literary scholarship published in peer-reviewed journals. Good for a quick review of characters, plots, and the interpretively obvious.  There is of course a volume on DeLillo, with a chapter on White Noise.

Contact Us

picture of Lisabeth Chabot

Lisabeth Chabot

College Librarian
(607) 274-3182

Search Argos

Related Guides

Two research guides of mine also cover various aspects of American media and popular culture: 

First Edition


Web Resources

Gateway Web Sites


Selected Web Sites

Don DeLillo's America: Probably the best DeLillo site--scroll down to the content categories and poke around.

Don DeLillo Society:
  The bibliography by year is pretty good, and there's a newsletter and links.

Slate Audio Book Club: Discussion of White Noise: 50 minute audio debate from the e-zine.

Google Advanced

      Google Advanced Search: When doing research on the Web, always use the Adanced Search version of Google. This not only provides more flexibility in entering search terms, but more importantly it allows you to target the Web domains that are likely to provide the most authoritative information.
     Under "Need More Tools?" you will find  the "Search within a site or domain" slot.  You may enter only one domain at a time, but it's worth targeting each of the three domains likely to supply the best information: colleges and universities (enter the "edu" tag), nonprofit organizations (enter the "org" tag), and the United States government (enter the "gov" tag).  

Citation Help

MLA Citation

MLA is the citation style used by most disciplines in the Humanities. Here is my guide to the latest (2016) update of the MLA style.

And Don't Just Take My Word For It . . .

The IC Library Communications Librarian Cathy Michael offers a research guide in Communication & Culture.

White Noise