Date of Award

8-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

English

Major Professor

Amy J. Elias

Committee Members

Mary E. Papke, Margaret Lazarus Dean

Abstract

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.

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