Plotting Justice: Narrative Ethics and Literary Culture after 9/11

Plotting Justice: Narrative Ethics and Literary Culture after 9/11

Plotting Justice: Narrative Ethics and Literary Culture after 9/11

Plotting Justice: Narrative Ethics and Literary Culture after 9/11

Synopsis

Have the terrorist attacks of September 11 shifted the moral coordinates of contemporary fiction? And how might such a shift, reflected in narrative strategies and forms, relate to other themes and trends emerging with the globalization of literature? This book pursues these questions through works written in the wake of 9/11 and examines the complex intersection of ethics and narrative that has defined a significant portion of British and American fiction over the past decade. Don DeLillo, Pat Barker, Aleksandar Hemon, Lorraine Adams, Michael Cunningham, and Patrick McGrath are among the authors Georgiana Banita considers. Their work illustrates how post-9/11 literature expresses an ethics of equivocation-in formal elements of narrative, in a complex scrutiny of justice, and in tense dialogues linking this fiction with the larger political landscape of the era. Through a broad historical and cultural lens, Plotting Justice reveals links between the narrative ethics of post-9/11 fiction and events preceding and following the terrorist attacks-events that defined the last half of the twentieth century, from the Holocaust to the Balkan War, and those that 9/11 precipitated, from war in Afghanistan to the Abu Ghraib scandal. Challenging the rhetoric of the war on terror, the book honours the capacity of literature to articulate ambiguous forms of resistance in ways that reconfigure the imperatives and responsibilities of narrative for the twenty-first century.

Excerpt

In this book I explore the complex intersection of ethics and narrative that has defined a considerable portion of English-language fiction over the past decade in relation to the events of September 11, 2001. My aim is to investigate how narrative strategies in post-9/11 fiction resonate with issues of race, spectatorship, profiling, torture, and mourning that circle around 9/11 and its aftermath. I suggest ways of adapting established theories of narrative ethics to the new challenge of engaging with media representations of terrorism, to the increasing popularization and the political implications of psychoanalytical discourse and psychotherapy, as well as to the effects of transnational warfare and global surveillance systems on contemporary fiction. The formal features of these fictions and their emplotment of ethical thought, I argue, dovetail with an increased anxiety about what it means to assume or defy the responsibilities that emerged in the wake of the terrorist attacks. For the chapters that follow I have chosen a set of texts in which a genealogy for this anxiety may be traced and which recontextualize the terrorist attacks as one in a series of twentieth-century events (from the Holocaust to the Balkan civil war) that have challenged our assumptions about living with cruelty and terror.

The overall argument charts a development in post-9/11 fiction from a focus on implicitly international modes of representation (particularly visual and news media) toward a more overtly globalized understanding of the 9/11 events and their aftermath through the lens of world-historical memory and trauma. In this sense, the book expands the theoretical field of reading post-9/11 fiction, yet without imposing a single framework for analyzing what is still a heterogeneous group of texts. It ranges more . . .

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