(Routledge Studies in Contemporary Literature, 2016)
A Poetics of Trauma after 9/11 was published with Routledge Research in 2016, and was funded via a competitively awarded research grant by the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes (National Research Foundation, Germany) and the Eccles Centre at the British Library. It focuses on both theoretical and fictional work that might help us to understand how material and ideological boundaries and divisions have been challenged, blurred or subverted by the events of the past decade – and, in particular, by the terrorist attacks on the mainland of the United States.
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.