The Multidirectionality of Memory: Networks of Trauma in Post-9/11 Literature

  • Katharina Donn University of Augsburg
Keywords: 9/11, cultural memory, trauma, Jonathan Safran Foer, Art Spiegelman


9/11 fictional literature shows a striking propensity to conjure up other, historically older traumata and intertextual references in an associative framework which moreover introduces into the texts an oscillation between narrative representation and indexical reference, and which I will exemplify in a reading of J.S. Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers. Based on an understanding of trauma as a structure of reception rather than a phenomenon essentially linked to specific events, trauma in my approach emerges not only as an interpretational framework for dealing with the aesthetics and psychology of post-9/11 fiction, but also as an intercultural and diachronic link which fictional literature experiments with. Working with the model of multidirectional collective memory developed by Michael Rothberg, this specific quality of intertextuality and intergenerational dialogue gives rise to the impression that the memorialization of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, functions in a more dynamic way than it at first glance appears to do. In this contemporary context, literary trauma therefore emerges not primarily as an un-representable void, but must rather be described in terms of a productive, albeit liminal in-between space of both individual and cultural remembering and aesthetic representation.