The trauma aesthetic: (re)mediating absence, emptiness and nation in post-9/11 American film and literature

Powell, Elizabeth (2011) The trauma aesthetic: (re)mediating absence, emptiness and nation in post-9/11 American film and literature. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis proposes a concept of the trauma aesthetic in order to make sense of the ways in which particular texts have responded to the events of 9/11 as an intensely mediated and vicariously experienced cultural trauma. A central argument within existing studies of 9/11 and its cultural impact is that, in the immediate aftermath at least, the dominant interpretation of the events often relied on crude and simplistic notions of national identity and American exceptionalism. Drawing on a variety of the cultural, political and aesthetic discourses which have emerged in post-9/11 studies, this thesis argues that the trauma aesthetic (re)mediates the cultural narrative of 9/11 in more complex and nuanced ways.
The thesis examines four novels: Falling Man (Don DeLillo, 2007), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Jonathan Safran Foer, 2005), Man in the Dark (Paul Auster, 2008) and The Road (Cormac McCarthy, 2006), and four films: A History of Violence (d. David Cronenberg, 2005), In the Valley of Elah (d. Paul Haggis, 2007), 25th Hour (d. Spike Lee, 2002) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (d. Michel Gondry, 2004). All of these texts respond to the trauma of 9/11 either directly or indirectly and explore similar themes of masculinity, culpability and the nature of traumatic experience. My analysis identifies a series of metaphors, common to all of these texts, which are used to (re)mediate the sense of absence and emptiness integral to the experience of 9/11 and the sense of vulnerability which it inflicted upon American national identity. These include: falling, timelessness, placelessness and the absent body. By drawing on and adapting existing trauma theories from scholars such as Cathy Caruth and Kali Tal the thesis proposes the trauma aesthetic as a new critical tool for the understanding of post-9/11 film and literature.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Film and Television Studies (former - to 2012)
Depositing User: Users 2593 not found.
Date Deposited: 15 May 2013 11:59
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2013 15:41


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