The Power of Horror: Abject Art and Terrorism in Don DeLillo's Falling Man

Kelsie Donnelly

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


This paper argues that Don DeLillo's 2007 novel, Falling Man, engages with abject art to disrupt the pre-existing systems of signification and dualistic rhetoric that characterized state and media responses to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The novel engages with one of the most controversial areas of 9/11 discourse: claims that the attacks were an artistic spectacle. Falling Man posits that if art is to continue to grapple with the meanings of 9/11, it must depart from familiar discourses of tragedy and triumph and embrace radical artistic responses. The novel fulfills this through its engagement with abject art, which poses necessary questions pertaining to the aesthetic, ethical, and political. Such an art form inspires terror and requires a particular aesthetic. Through its assessment of abject art and terrorism, Falling Man destabilizes conventional interpretive frameworks to provide a new artistic and ethical response to 9/11.
Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Aesthetics
VolumeSpecial Volume 7
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2019


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