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A Poetics of Trauma after 9/11: Representing Vulnerability in a Digitized Present (Routledge,forthcoming)
A Poetics of Trauma after 9/11: Representing Vulnerability in a Digitized Present is under contract with Routledge Research, and was funded via a competitively awarded research grant by the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes (German Academy for Academic Excellence) and the Eccles Centre at the British Library. My project focuses on both theoretical and fictional work that might help us to understand how material and ideological boundaries and divisions have been challenged, blurred or subverted by the events of the past decade – and, in particular, by the terrorist attacks on the mainland of the United States.
I explore, in particular, ideas of mediation as they relate to the initial moments of terrorist encounter and to subsequent attempts to record and interpret those moments. Trauma is a particularly fascinating lens through which to explore these issues because it allows me to interconnect two key concepts: the intimacy of corporeal and psychical precariousness, and the digitalization and virtuality which characterize (and destabilize) contemporary experiences of the real. I interrogate the fundamental idea of traumatic unspeakability by exploring the ways in which the materiality of the body becomes an affective basis for a textual ethics of empathy. I thus work at the intersection of trauma studies, affect theory, literary studies, and the ethics of (reading) literature in order to demonstrate that multi-dimensional textual patterns and referentialities subvert the paradigm of traumatic non-representability in post-9/11 texts.
I demonstrate this ethical (and, at times, political) aesthetic of trauma literature in a series of textual readings, and I select texts that are formally and imaginatively as well as geographically various. The grotesque and liberating laughter of Spiegelman’s comix turns trauma into a strategy of critique, and emphasizes the importance of imaginative transformation, indeterminacy and flexibility over the rigid discourses of redemption. Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, on the other hand, interrogates an embodied ethics of affect and focuses on the paradox between individuality and community which inheres in trauma. The transnational as well as transhistorical embedding of 9/11 is directly reflected in my chapter on J.S. Foer, in which I relate his intertextual strategies and multiple narrative perspectives to the question of the singularity of 9/11, but William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition is the text which turns 9/11 into an event of the global marketplace. Whether representation entails commodification has been a central question of trauma theory since Adorno. Gibson counters the Baudrillardian complicity of 9/11 when he traces the corporeal wound through the layers of code which engulf his fictional world.
|List Affiliations:||Review Editor for H-Amstdy
|Interests:||American History / Studies
I am interested in how writers respond to experiences of conflict and terror, and explore the aesthetics and ethics of literature in the face of terror and trauma. I received my doctorate in July 2014 from the University of Augsburg with a thesis on 9/11 literature, which the ‘Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes’ (National Academy for Academic Excellence) funded in full. A Poetics of Trauma after 9/11: Representing Vulnerability in a Digitized Present is my first book project, under contract with Routledge Research to be published in 2016. I work internationally, between Germany and London; I am employed as associate lecturer for American Literature at the University of Augsburg, and contribute to the research networks at the University of Westminster as visiting research fellow of the Institute of Modern and Contemporary Culture. Currently, I am on a post-doctoral research fellowship (competitively awarded by the state-funded program “Chancengleicheit” – Equal opportunities in Higher Education) and plan a new project on modernist urban culture.