Date of Award
Master of Arts
Amy J. Elias
Mary E. Papke, Margaret Lazarus Dean
In the days after 9/11, Don DeLillo asserted that the narrative of the future ended in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, and "it is left to us to create the counter-narrative" (34). In this thesis project, I illustrate how Jonathan Safran Foer and Ian McEwan take up DeLillo‘s call to construct a counter-narrative to empty futurism and the backwards-oriented narrative of terrorism. Through my comparative analysis of Cosmopolis and Falling Man in Chapter One, I illustrate how DeLillo argues for the renewed importance of the place of memory in the world following the attacks of 9/11. Cosmopolis’ world of constant motion illustrates a pre-9/11 mindset of the persistent "white-hot future" that eviscerates the space of memory in society. However, in Falling Man, following the attacks of 9/11, the characters highlight the utility and importance of productively engaging with the past in order to move forward into the future. After setting up the renewed importance of memory after 9/11, I turn to an analysis of how the increased importance of memory structures the 9/11 writings of Jonathan Safran Foer and Ian McEwan as they extend DeLillo‘s literary counter-narrative to terrorism. Chapter Two‘s discussion of Foer‘s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close highlights how the narrative itself serves as a site of memory that speaks to the power of a productive engagement with the past to illuminate the future. An engagement with his grandfather‘s past allows Oskar Schell to look back and provide a witness to the traumatic past of his grandparents at Dresden in order to transition beyond the trauma of losing his father on 9/11. Finally, Chapter Three concerns Ian McEwan‘s Saturday, specifically how Henry Perowne and his family struggle with the vicarious traumatization that they experience living in an anxious post-9/11 geopolitical moment. Ultimately, these novels construct a forward-looking counter-narrative to the backwards-looking narrative of terrorism that productively engages with the past in order to transition into the future, at the same time that they speak to the trauma of the present.
Carlini, Matthew Francis, "The "Ruins of the Future": Counter-Narratives to Terrorism in the 9/11 Literature of Don DeLillo, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Ian McEwan. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2009.