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"Why do they hate us?": terrorists in American and British fiction of the mid-2000s


Frank, Michael C (2018). "Why do they hate us?": terrorists in American and British fiction of the mid-2000s. In: Herman, Peter C. Terrorism and Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 340-360.

Abstract

This chapter argues that fictional engagement with terrorists must be considered in relation to a larger cultural process of meaning-making. As a form of extreme communication actions that we classify as "terrorist" do not speak for themselves; they are symbolic messages that require interpretation, and this interpretation is a key element of the cultural response to terror. Accordingly, fictional depictions of terrorists cannot be understood independently of the highly contested discursive terrain in which political actions are legitimized or delegitimized in the name of either terrorism or counterterrorism. Drawing on the examples of Don DeLillo's "Falling Man" and Martin Amis' "The Last Days of Muhammad Atta," the present chapter enquires into how literary imaginations of terrorists have both responded and contributed to the discourse as to the "why" of 9/11. It comes to the conclusion that both texts ultimately rely on familiar stereotypes, ranging from the misguided youth to the evil psychopath. Moreover, and more significantly, they marginalize the political causes of Islamist terrorism by suggesting that these causes are only of secondary relevance to the perpetrators, who have more personal reasons for becoming involved in a terrorist conspiracy. In this sense, these (and other) fictional approaches to the hijackers of September 11, 2001, are blind to "the real grievances and political agency of those who choose to violently resist Western foreign policy" (Richard Jackson), resorting, instead, to comforting myths about the weakness, deviance, and abnormality of the terrorist "other."

Abstract

This chapter argues that fictional engagement with terrorists must be considered in relation to a larger cultural process of meaning-making. As a form of extreme communication actions that we classify as "terrorist" do not speak for themselves; they are symbolic messages that require interpretation, and this interpretation is a key element of the cultural response to terror. Accordingly, fictional depictions of terrorists cannot be understood independently of the highly contested discursive terrain in which political actions are legitimized or delegitimized in the name of either terrorism or counterterrorism. Drawing on the examples of Don DeLillo's "Falling Man" and Martin Amis' "The Last Days of Muhammad Atta," the present chapter enquires into how literary imaginations of terrorists have both responded and contributed to the discourse as to the "why" of 9/11. It comes to the conclusion that both texts ultimately rely on familiar stereotypes, ranging from the misguided youth to the evil psychopath. Moreover, and more significantly, they marginalize the political causes of Islamist terrorism by suggesting that these causes are only of secondary relevance to the perpetrators, who have more personal reasons for becoming involved in a terrorist conspiracy. In this sense, these (and other) fictional approaches to the hijackers of September 11, 2001, are blind to "the real grievances and political agency of those who choose to violently resist Western foreign policy" (Richard Jackson), resorting, instead, to comforting myths about the weakness, deviance, and abnormality of the terrorist "other."

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:13 September 2018
Deposited On:11 Feb 2019 14:58
Last Modified:24 Apr 2019 15:09
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISBN:978-1-108-49824-1
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316987292.020
Related URLs:https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/terrorism-and-literature/B276DBD28A55D10FA05ED356716C74B2 (Publisher)
https://www.recherche-portal.ch/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=ebi01_prod011260757&context=L&vid=ZAD&search_scope=default_scope&tab=default_tab&lang=de_DE (Library Catalogue)

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