“.” Eccles Centre Panel. European Association for American Studies Biennial Conference 2016. Constanta, Romania. 22-25 April, 2016.
Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis (2003) and Thomas Pynchon’s The Bleeding Edge (2013) immerse the 2001 terrorist attacks in the virtual underbellies of cyberspace and global finance. Working against the criticism that literary responses domesticated and de-politicized the attacks, I focus on questions of complicity and implicated selfhood in networked spaces. I ask how writers apprehend the human through the digital sheen, thus challenging the ways in which individuals can position themselves in relation to history. When confronting their interconnected and dispersed protagonists with terrorist violence, these writers uncover intricate webs of conspiracy, global capital, and human relations, and use post-9/11 fiction as a pathway to critique a neoliberal world order.
This paper thus proposes that the relationship of trauma to the digitalization and virtuality of contemporary experiences of the real has developed into a driving imaginative force behind recent 9/11 fiction. Authors have departed from the haunting memory traces and melancholic Betroffenheit of the aftermath, and are taking the fiction of trauma in this wholly new, non-Freudian direction. In Thomas Pynchon’s 2013 novel The Bleeding Edge, the planes have turned sonic. Trauma here resists the wide-spread academic focus on memory, and manifests a pathology of knowledge itself. Set in the rhizomatic underbelly of virtual and urban space, Pynchon’s (anti-) detective protagonist develops innovative epistemological practices in order to navigate her warped reality. I suggest that paradoxically, it is the precariousness of human life that emerges through layers of code and networks of digital surveillance, as possibilities of recognition are engendered by affect and corporeality. In effect, Pynchon therefore experiments with a post-traumatic practice of knowledge as intuition. Not anti-, but post-rational, this also introduces a subtle, intersubjective ethics of empathy into this multi-dimensional reality.