1st Edition

A Poetics of Trauma after 9/11 Representing Trauma in a Digitized Present

By Katharina Donn Copyright 2017
    226 Pages
    by Routledge

    226 Pages
    by Routledge

    The 9/11 attacks brought large-scale violence into the 21st century with force and have come to epitomize the entanglement of intimate vulnerability and virtual spectacle that is typical of the globalized present. This book works at the intersection of trauma studies, affect theory, and literary studies to offer radically new interpretive frames for interrogating the challenges inherent in representing the initial moments of the terrorist encounter. Beyond the paradigm of traumatic unspeakability, post-9/11 texts expose the materiality of the human body in its universal vulnerability. The intersubjective empathy this engenders is politically subversive, as it undermines the discourse of historical singularity and exceptionalism by establishing a global network of reference and dialogue. Innovative theoretical interconnections between clinical pathology, concepts of cultural trauma, and political aesthetics lay the foundations for exploring formally and geographically diverse texts. Close readings of works by Jonathan Safran Foer, Art Spiegelman, Don DeLillo, and William Gibson map the relationship between representations of 9/11 and complex aspects of trauma theory. This detailed approach makes a case for revisiting trauma theory and bringing its Freudian origins into the digitized present. It showcases trauma as a physical and psychological wound as well as an experience that is simultaneously pre-discursive and inhibited by the virtuality of the present-day real. Exploring how contemporary trauma studies can take into account the digitization and virtuality of present-day realities, this book is a key intervention in establishing a contemporary ethics of witnessing terror.

    Table of Contents:



    Introduction: From Memory to Mediation. Towards a Trauma Theory of the Digitized Present

    1 The Unspeakability Thesis Reconsidered

    Foreign Bodies: Deconstructing the Freudian Legacy

    (Im) Possibilities of Representation: Virtual Trauma and the Real

    Trauma Literature beyond Unspeakability: A Tentative Poetics

    2 The Ethics of Form: Trauma Literature After 9/11

    From the Frame to Critique: Discursive Power in a Context of Cultural Trauma

    Vulnerability as Spectacle? Figuring the Fall

    Encountering the Face of the Other: Alterity after Trauma

    3 Detouring the Singularity of Trauma: Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

    Records to be made? Silence and Testimony

    Historical and Symbolic Archives: Meandering towards the Present Absence of 9/11

    9/11 Transnationalized?

    4 "Icons of a More Innocent Age"? Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers

    "I never Loved those Arrogant Boxes": Enacting Trauma in Comix

    Metamorphosing Trauma: 9/11 as the Grotesque

    Against the End of Irony: Trauma as Resistance

    5 Precarious Bodies: Don DeLillo’s Falling Man

    Unstable Sociality: Embodied Patterns of Interconnectedness

    The Ethics of Witnessing Terror: Falling into Perception

    Resisting Totality: Unsettled Signification and the Anti-Spectacular

    6 Trauma in a Virtual World: William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition

    Realities of Trauma, the Trauma of Reality: Witnessing as Pattern Recognition

    The ‘Footage:’ Video Art and the Negative Sublime

    Affect and Globalization: Histories of Violence and Post-Traumatic Encounters

    7 Conclusion: Re-Situating the Subject in the Af


    Katharina Donn is a lecturer and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Augsburg, Germany, focusing on trauma and memory in U.S.-American literature, and has held visiting fellowships at the Eccles Centre for American Studies, the Institute of Advanced Studies at University College London, and a visiting professorship at the University of Texas at Austin.