Knjižnica Filozofskog fakulteta
Sveučilišta u Zagrebu
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Institutional Repository

9/11: Event, Trauma, Nation, Globalization


Downloads per month over past year

Cvek, Sven. (2009). 9/11: Event, Trauma, Nation, Globalization. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of English Language and Literature. [mentor Grgas, Stipe].

PDF (English)
Download (921kB) | Preview


This study analyzes the representations of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States in contemporary American literary and cultural production, focusing in particular on the work of Jonathan Safran Foer, Art Spiegelman, Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon. While the central part of the corpus consists of selected literary texts, on its margins it also includes media images, films and works of visual artists. This cultural work, that with various degree of explicitness refers to the 9/11 attacks, the study locates within a larger "9/11 archive" that also encompasses the cultural representations of a post-9/11 America and its debates about the "global war on terror." The 9/11 archive does not offer a coherent or definite picture of the event. Marked by mourning and loss, it can best be understood as a process of the event's in-culturation, i.e. as encompassing a variety of discourses through which the traumatic event becomes part of US culture. What can be observed in the archive are two structuring forces that emerge as fundamental. On the one hand, the 9/11 event was defined by the centripetal force of US nationalism. The reconstitution of national homogeneity after 9/11 was supported by interpretations of the event that relied on the logic of what LaCapra calls "the myth of founding trauma," that, tied up with the social practices of mourning, bound national community together and worked to set it off from non-national/terrorist/immigrant others. On the other hand, the various processes of economic globalization exploded the limits of the presumably national event and connected it to a multitude of sub- and trans-national histories. The study argues that, by centering on non-national contexts for 9/11, it is possible to approach it as a symptom of the globalization processes that destabilize the limits of the national community and necessitate its reconstitution in the global context. Since globalization is a process in which the US nation-state plays a crucial role, it is also intertwined with a specific US national imaginary. The construction of this conflicted imaginary is what can also be detected in post-9/11 US fiction. In other words, two tendencies can be observed in the 9/11 archive, both implicated with a specific adjustment of American national imaginary to the changing global position of the United States (which includes a declining US hegemony): on the one hand, the archive speaks of a gost-traumatic reconstruction of an imagined national wholeness; on the other, many 9/11 fictions also work to reconstitute US nationness inside a planetary context. The 9/11 archive is then underwritten by the dynamic between the deterritorializing effects of global capitalism and the reterritorializing power of the traumatic event in its hegemonic cultural inscription. The first part of the study focuses on the conditions for this reterritorialization, with a special emphasis on the modalities of mourning and their mediation as pertaining to the process of communal homogenization post-9/11. This process is contingent on the same post-traumatic metanarratives that supported the changes in US foreign and domestic policies after the September 11 attacks. These testified not to the disappearance, but the universalization or (further) globalization of one nation's ideological and material presence. The move from national to global, implicit in many 9/11 fictions, is explored in the second part of the study. It is important to note that, while the national/global binary defines the main modalities of the event's inscriptions in the 9/11 archive, the terms of the distinction between the "national" and "global" are simultaneously being reformed under the pressure of the event's impact. An understanding of this moment of transition, that both engenders the possibility for the occurrence of the trauma of 9/11 and of which the event can be considered symptomatic, thus becomes indispensable for the understanding of 9/11. Hence, the texts analyzed here turn out to be not only about 9/11, but also about the changing position of the United States within the history of the world system. This study proceeds by way of a series of thematic leaps, in order to unearth the active entanglement of the event with systems of meaning and power that create the conditions for its understanding. I highlight four of these in the title: event, trauma, nation, and globalization. These are laid out to form a composite screen for my reconstruction of the complex social reality that came to be remembered primarily through a simple iconicnumeric form. The general trajectory of my analysis follows the basic division sketched above. Although both the centripetal and centrifugal force operate simultaneously in all the texts under scrutiny, I try to focus first on the imploding, homogenizing symptoms of 9/11— its hegemonic inscriptions as national trauma—and then move onto a reading of works that situate the event in supranational contexts. The study thus moves from an analysis of the ways in which the event was symbolically encoded within the sphere of a traumatized collectivity to readings of texts that approach 9/11 as an opportunity to speak of its other relevant histories. In the process of reading, the 9/11 archive proved to open numerous related questions: about the possible narrative, generic and conceptual modes of the event's inscription, about the discursive limits regulating the response to the traumatic impact of 9/11, about the structures of affect and forms of sociality implicated in these responses, about the event's place in history, and about various histories and social forces that the different inscriptions of the event elucidate or occlude. The issues of traumatic loss, affect and community, and politics emerge as central to the 9/11 archive. The main methodological problem of the study consisted in articulating the relations between the historical event, literary (and other) texts, and the wider social system. Recognizing that there is no easy or direct way to analyze the relationship between the forming and formative cultural processes and the questions of community and political economy, the study approaches some 9/11 literary texts as local sites of inscription of the event, as connecting points that can shed light on the complex relations between the historical event, the affective structures supporting its transformative effects on a national community, and the systemic contexts relevant for its emergence. In order to account for the complexity of its subject matter, the study proposed the 9/11 archive be approached by way of a layered analytical perspective, that could both set a heuristic framework for the unavoidable sense of expansion of the event and account for its concentric and palimpsestic contexts. Thus, a number of theoretical practices is critically engaged here, from psychoanalysis and nationalism studies to philosophy of history, worldsystem theory, and the heterogeneous critical practices of American Studies, in a situationist response to the methodological challenge posed by the 9/11 archive.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: September 11, 9/11, United States, trauma, affect, nationalism, globalization, imperialism, terrorism, capitalism
Subjects: English language and literature
Departments: Department of English Language and Literature
Supervisor: Grgas, Stipe
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2012 07:39
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2019 12:25

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item