Power and representation: Language, trauma, and mourning in post 9/11 literature
Campbell, Rebecca E.
In order to address the problematic issue plaguing 9/11 literature: a narrative style that occludes the understanding of trauma, and thus the understanding of the 9/11 event itself- post 9/11 fiction must be examined within the frame of the global, considering the major components noted above in their relation to and workings within today’s post 9/11 environment. From this lens, attention is drawn to the connection between the event of 9/11 and the current workings of global order and flows, the atmosphere pre and post attacks, and changing cultural, political, and economic circumstances. Expressly, how the new dimensions of time and space enacted by globalization following the events of the September 11th attacks, affects and rewrites the way in which violence, trauma, and mourning is perceived and experienced on a global scale via 9/11 fiction with the specific focus on historical and contemporary workings of media and gender. Therefore, in bringing together the significant elements (and issues) of the literary category: the event of 9/11, the global, and trauma, and the core components which both compose and complicate the genre: power and representation, post 9/11 fiction can be examined within the contexts of language, mourning, and trauma. Specifically, the context of 9/11 and language as representation of the event in media, 9/11 and mourning as representation of the event through literary character roles, and 9/11 and trauma as representation of the event through the image. Many theorists have put forward ideas regarding how this changing globalized world affects, revises, or even completely rewrites how we experience violence, trauma, and mourning. Traditionally these were localized and closed experiences; our ever-changing world now turns away from these foundations to become increasingly global in all aspects thereby affecting these experiences in public ways. The role that media now plays in the functioning of the world, the meaning-making and governing of daily lives is an undeniable aspect of globalization. The way in which information is moved, perceived, and translated has become an essential tool and powerful controlling force in political, economic and cultural arenas, fields which are heavily connected to violence, and trauma and thus mourning and healing. How does our changing global arena and the world’s heightened dependability on media and technology alter these experiences? How does this framework affect/alter trauma and 9/11 in a way that would make it knowable to others? This thesis will address the crux of these questions within the context of the global in post 9/11 fiction. The analysis of theoretical and creative texts examined within this thesis leads to the ultimate revelation that it is the imagined worlds produced and exponentially perpetuated via the components of globalization, specifically, as constructed through political rhetoric and the mass media circulated image, which impede narratives from being truly knowable. As I stated in my introduction: it can be acknowledged that new dimensions of time and space that have been created by globalization and can primarily be identified in the effects upon the twenty-first century, particularly in the global environment following the events of 9/11. However, as seen from this thesis’ analysis, the dimensions of space and time may not be developing on an even scale and it is this, this disjuncture in development, that I would single out as the cause in the overwhelming production and expansion of power and control employed via imagined worlds, which inhibits narratives from conceptualizing and addressing trauma and mourning as a collective. Many aspects and elements of our world are now based on flows, forever changing and closing the gap of time needed for any kind of action or experience to be circulated and transmitted. However, although time may now be global, the space of the national is still very much intact. This can be observed through the national political and economic rhetoric still used and circulated as means of control – both physically and mentally- within the global sphere. National and imperialistic rhetoric, rhetoric that has been formulated on the basis of feminization, dominates the news and media cycles as well as political and economic incentives. This in combination with advancing technology has led to the image and rhetoric spread via the national media sources - and predominately news cycles, to be the most powerful tools in directing global control and igniting world violence. These tools have in turn created an ever constant stream of “imagined communities", therefore constantly perpetuating an “imagined world” (Anderson and Appadurai). In this disjuncture space, this battleground between the national and the global, reality becomes the “hyperreal”, and space is now a scape, specifically a media/ideo-scape , an abstracted space. With globalized space comes the imagined and it is important how this then comes into play with and affects the ways in which violence, trauma, and mourning are represented, and thus understood as an experience occurring in the global. It can be determined that the aspect of the hyperreal- the imagined, is not only an important factor in the consideration of violence and trauma as shared experiences, it is a controlling factor – and ultimately, the impeding factor in the creation and production of a global network of communication in sharing trauma.