AbstractThis project examines how Don DeLillo’s Falling Man (2007), Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) and Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric (2004) have explored grief in response to the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. It sets out to answer four key questions: is there anything to be gained — politically, socially, ethically, and aesthetically — from lived experiences of grief? How do the texts engage with the grief of abject and ungrievable bodies — from the censored falling body to the perceived Muslim ‘terrorist’ Other to brutalised black bodies — and what are the implications of this engagement? How do the texts depart from a now paradigmatic ‘trauma’ aesthetic to aestheticise loss in new ways? And, finally, to what extent do the texts examined move beyond ‘9/11’, countering the narrative of ‘9/11’ as a national ‘trauma’ to provide alternative portraits of grief? While there is a plethora of literary studies focusing on trauma in ‘9/11 fiction’, which often conflate or misdiagnose grief as trauma, there is not yet a critical study with a sustained focus on grief in post-9/11 literature. Although there is an emerging trend away from traditional trauma theory as a critical paradigm, few scholars have suggested or applied alternate interpretive frameworks. This study reads literary portraits of grief through a variety of analytical lenses provided by cultural theorists, such as Julia Kristeva, Judith Butler, and Lauren Berlant, to create a critical counter-narrative to literary studies of 9/11 ‘trauma’ and the dominant ‘9/11’ narrative of national ‘trauma’ and resilience.
Building on a substantial body of scholarship in grief studies and 9/11 literary studies, “Beyond ‘9/11’: Counter-narratives of Grief in Post-9/11 Literature” makes an original contribution to both fields in several ways: it is the first detailed study of grief in post-9/11 literature and twenty-first-century American literature; it is the first to offer an in-depth analysis of what it considers as abject bodies (and the reclamation of these bodies as political agents) in post-9/11 literature; it includes Rankine’s American Lyric, which is rarely included in studies of 9/11 literature, and departs from established readings of ‘9/11 novels’ to provide new readings; it applies new methodologies to analyse post-9/11 literature, breaking the solidified ties of extant 9/11 literary scholarship to trauma theory, whether in favour of or against; it challenges the dominant medico-psychiatric model of grief to provide an alternate perspective of grief from a literary lens; and, finally, it argues that sustained reflection on the ordinary yet profound experience of grief is (re)productive and filled with the potential to bear various ethical, political, social and aesthetic fruits.
|Date of Award||Dec 2020|
|Sponsors||UK AHRC Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership|
|Supervisor||Philip McGowan (Supervisor) & Steffi Lehner (Supervisor)|
- twenty-first century literature
- American literature
- contemporary literature
- Don DeLillo
- Mohsin Hamid
- Claudia Rankine