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Deterritorializing the “Homeland” in American Studies and American Fiction after 9/11

Crownshaw, Richard. 2011. Deterritorializing the “Homeland” in American Studies and American Fiction after 9/11. Journal of American Studies, 45(4), pp. 757-776. ISSN 0021-8758 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Literary criticism has debated the usefulness of the trauma paradigm found in much post-9/11 fiction. Where critiqued, trauma is sometimes understood as a domesticating concept by which the events of 9/11 are incorporated into sentimental, familial dramas and romances with no purchase on the international significance of the terrorist attacks and the US's response to them; or, the concept of trauma is understood critically as the means by which the boundaries of a nation or “homeland” self-perceived as violated and victimized may be shored up, rendered impermeable – if that were possible. A counterversion of trauma argues its potential as an affective means of bridging the divide between a wounded US and global suffering. Understood in this way, the concept of trauma becomes the means by which the significance of 9/11 could be deterritorialized. While these versions of trauma, found in academic theory and literary practice, invoke the spatial – the domestic sphere, the homeland, the global – they tend to focus on the time of trauma rather than on the imbrication of the temporal and the spatial. If, instead, 9/11 trauma could be more productively defined as the puncturing of national fantasies of an inviolable and innocent homeland, fantasies which themselves rest on the (failed) repression of foundational violence in the colonial and settler creation of that homeland, and on subsequent notions of American exceptionalism at home and, in the exercise of foreign policy, abroad, then the traumatic can be spatialized. In other words, understood in relation to fantasy, trauma illuminates the terroritalization and deterritorialization of American history. After working through various examples of post-9/11 fiction to demonstrate parochial renditions of trauma and trauma's unrealized global resonances, this article turns to Cormac McCarthy's 9/11 allegory The Road for the way in which its spaces, places and territories are marked by inextricable traumas of the past and present – and therefore for the way in which it models trauma's relation to national fantasy.

Item Type:

Article

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021875811000946

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature
Research Office > REF2014

Dates:

DateEvent
2011Published

Item ID:

8941

Date Deposited:

02 Oct 2013 12:40

Last Modified:

23 Jun 2017 15:39

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.

URI:

http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/8941

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