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‘Turning Points and Falling Bodies’

Literary Investigations into the Cultural Life of the Catastrophe of 9/11 and its Aftermath

Christine Schwanecke

Pages 383 - 391

This article explores the ‘cultural life of catastrophes’ from a literary point of view. Jonathan Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2005) and Siri Hustvedt’s The Sorrows of an American (2008) deal with September 11, 2001, and its aftermath. Going beyond the mere reflection of this particular incident, these two American novels explore the general nature of catastrophes and their possibly universal effects. By drawing on established cultural concepts and images (e.g. the ‘turning point’ and the ‘fall’), they try to meet the challenge of representing events that in principle defy representation. Yet, Foer and Hustvedt do by no means only adopt common representational strategies; they also enrich the catalogue of imagery related to catastrophes by putting traditional concepts in new contexts and representing them in new ways. What is more, they meta-memnonically assess conventional commemoration practices and critically reflect upon them. Thereby, they strongly influence the ways in which 9/11 and other catastrophic incidents are remembered.


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