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American made: The homegrown terrorist and 9/11 myths in the contemporary US novel

Popescu, Maria-Irina (2019) American made: The homegrown terrorist and 9/11 myths in the contemporary US novel. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

This study charts the imaginary of the "homegrown terrorist" in post-2010 literature to determine whether contemporary novels provide a critique of the national myths reinvigorated in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. To understand how contemporary literature speculates on the causes of terrorist behaviour and represents the mediation of public trauma, agency, and national identity, I selected four novels, which I read closely and comparatively (through the lens of additional literary, media, and state narratives): David Goodwillie’s American Subversive, Pearl Abraham’s American Taliban, Jarett Kobek’s ATTA, and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout. By interrogating the ideological assumptions these texts communicate, I examine how the struggle between resistance to and endorsement of the dominant culture shapes the contemporary imaginary. The theories which have inspired these readings are cosmopolitanism and transnational literary studies, including Caroline Levander’s global-facing reconceptualisation of American literature,Donald E. Pease’s reworking of Jacqueline Rose’s "state fantasy," and Orientalism and the imaginary of the racialised Other, as theorized by Richard Dyer and Toni Morrison. Each chapter reiterates four topics: the deterritorialization of the national imaginary, “America” as the post-lapsarian Homeland, the construction of alterity, and the interplay between fact and fiction. By transgressing the singular historical moment of 9/11, this study contributes to the recent field of twenty-first-century literature by examining the aesthetics that make narratives of dissent – with their warnings against the white supremacist ideology of the "post-race" era and the oppressive workings of power in the ideal "America" – fascinating to the reader. The novels examined here explore how the literary present carries echoes of a mythological past and promises of a future charged with utopian potential. This thesis maps the aesthetic of diversity these novels offer and their ethical project to expand the imagination and cultivate empathy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Irina Popescu
Date Deposited: 22 May 2019 08:39
Last Modified: 22 May 2019 08:58
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/24641

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