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Plotting Justice

Narrative Ethics and Literary Culture after 9/11

Georgiana Banita

Publication Year: 2012

Have the terrorist attacks of September 11 shifted the moral coordinates of contemporary fiction? And how might such a shift, reflected in narrative strategies and forms, relate to other themes and trends emerging with the globalization of literature? This book pursues these questions through works written in the wake of 9/11 and examines the complex intersection of ethics and narrative that has defined a significant portion of British and American fiction over the past decade.

Don DeLillo, Pat Barker, Aleksandar Hemon, Lorraine Adams, Michael Cunningham, and Patrick McGrath are among the authors Georgiana Banita considers. Their work illustrates how post-9/11 literature expresses an ethics of equivocation—in formal elements of narrative, in a complex scrutiny of justice, and in tense dialogues linking this fiction with the larger political landscape of the era. Through a broad historical and cultural lens, Plotting Justice reveals links between the narrative ethics of post-9/11 fiction and events preceding and following the terrorist attacks—events that defined the last half of the twentieth century, from the Holocaust to the Balkan War, and those that 9/11 precipitated, from war in Afghanistan to the Abu Ghraib scandal. Challenging the rhetoric of the war on terror, the book honors the capacity of literature to articulate ambiguous forms of resistance in ways that reconfigure the imperatives and responsibilities of narrative for the twenty-first century. 

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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Title Page

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p. iii

Copyright Page

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p. iv


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p. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

Th is project first took shape in my mind in the fall of 2006. I had newly arrived in the United States, after six years in Germany, to study as a doctoral fellow at Yale University. On that fateful day in October, I was watching workers at Ground Zero as they laid the foundations for what was then called the Freedom Tower, the edifice meant to replace the Twin...

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Introduction: New Ethics, New Literatures, New Americas

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pp. 1-57

In this book I explore the complex intersection of ethics and narrative that has defined a considerable portion of English-language fiction over the past decade in relation to the events of September 11, 2001. My aim is to investigate how narrative strategies in post-9/11 fiction resonate with issues of race, spectatorship, profiling, torture, and mourning that circle around 9/11 and its aftermath. ...

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1. Falling Man Fiction: DeLillo,Spiegelman, Schulman, and the Spectatorial Condition

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pp. 59-108

David Friend’s visual record of post-9/11 New York, documenting and analyzing the stories behind the powerful images of that day, opens with the troubling sentence “Th e eyes were everywhere” (xv). Th is remark—initially meant to suggest the sheer number of cameras and recording devices aimed at the towers, as well as the stunned reactions of witnesses to the attacks—aptly describes literary representations of the 9/11 events. ...

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2. Sex and Sense: McGrath, Tristram, and Psychoanalysis from Ground Zero to Abu Ghraib

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pp. 109-164

In his influential essay “Open Doors, Closed Minds: American Prose Writing at a Time of Crisis,” Richard Gray underscores the failure of post-9/11 literature to formally articulate the crisis of imagination precipitated by the terrorist attacks. Gray encapsulates his position in asserting that 9/11 narratives such as Jay McInerney’s The Good Life...

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3. Moral Crusades: Race, Risk, and Walt Whitman’s Afterlives

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pp. 165-204

Th e changes wrought by the terrorist attacks of September 11 to our collective understanding of race, risk, and their correlation have been dramatic. In the immediate aftermath of those events, a nationwide system of social control was put into motion, aimed largely at racial, ethnic, and religious outsiders in ways that fed on and further fueled the confusion...

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4. The Internationalization of Conscience: Hemon, Barker, Balkanism

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pp. 205-249

The growing interest in racial profiling since the 9/11 attacks has led to a flurry of fictions concerned with the contemporary Muslim experience in the United States. Some of these fictions have more in common with Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist than with Halaby’s Once in a Promised Land in that they adopt a transnational perspective...

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5. Reading for the Pattern: Narrative, Data Mining, and the Transnational Ethics of Surveillance

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pp. 251-288

In the four-page chapter titled “Singularity” at the center of William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, the protagonist Cayce Pollard—whose father disappeared in Manhattan on September 11 and is presumed dead—witnesses the collapse of the Twin Towers concomitantly with the micro event of “a single petal fall, from a dead rose, in the tiny display window...

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Conclusion: Postincendiary Circumstances

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pp. 289-300

In November 2009 the whistleblower website Wikileaks released over half a million pager messages intercepted in the order officials and witnesses sent them on September 11, 2001. Media outlets seized the opportunity to discuss the ethical implications of these revelations on a global scale. Although comprehensive testimonial archives already exist...


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pp. 301-319


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pp. 321-343


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pp. 345-357

E-ISBN-13: 9780803244610
E-ISBN-10: 0803244614
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803240384

Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 810124934
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Plotting Justice

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • American fiction -- 21st century -- History and criticism
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001, in literature.
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001 -- Influence.
  • Ethics in literature.
  • Psychoanalysis in literature.
  • Social change in literature.
  • Literature and morals.
  • Literature and society -- United States.
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