Original Research

‘Why not follow our words bodily into the future tense?’: Life, death and posthuman bodies in Don DeLillo’s Zero K

Adéle Nel
Literator | Vol 42, No 1 | a1748 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v42i1.1748 | © 2021 Adéle Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 September 2020 | Published: 30 March 2021

About the author(s)

Adéle Nel, Research Unit Languages and Literature in the SA Context, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


The overarching problem foregrounded by the novel is how human mortality should be treated in the face of the inexorability of death, as well as the human desire for immortality. From the investigation of the role that the human body and self and life and death play in Zero K, it is evident that there is, in fact, evidence of a posthumanist framework: from technological practices (the body and cryonic freezing) and ethics (Zero K and Ross’s decision), to aesthetics (ways of seeing and the role of art). The aim of this article is to read Don DeLillo’s Zero K within the framework of the posthuman, specifically focusing on the following central aspects of the novel: the role of the human body and the concept of the posthuman; the relationship between the self, the body and language; death and the challenges of posthumanism; and the relationship between ways of seeing, art and death. The starting point is to explore how the literature, particularly fiction, creates a richer and more complex notion of the contexts and issues arising from the idea of the posthuman and/or new human.


Zero K; Don DeLillo; life or death; posthumanism; posthuman bodies; body and language; art; ways of seeing.


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