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Stock Characters in 9/11 Fiction

Homosociality and Nihilist Performance

Sandra Singer

Stock Characters in 9/11 Fiction considers fictional work of the time subsequent to the attacks. The book develops and investigates models of stock characters in 9/11 fiction who promote the trauma meme within a narrative arc of tragedy; the conceptual evolution of trauma and media as thematic arcs is interpreted within specific 9/11 novels and in correspondence with other terrorist fiction. The almost exclusively male stock character protagonists include the male homosocial perpetrator and the tightrope walker. Among the more recent authors discussed are Amy Waldman and Thomas Pynchon, whose novels illustrate the way characters inhabit media models, rather than, as previously thought, using media for disseminating terrorist events and messaging. Other featured writers include Bernhard Schlink, Don DeLillo, Claire Messud, Ian McEwan, Joseph O’Neill, and Colum McCann. Stock Characters in 9/11 Fiction is a valuable text for scholars of 9/11 fiction, as well as for professors and university students studying contemporary literature.

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Chapter 6. From Modernism to Postmodernism: The Trauma Meme Transformed in Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin


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The Trauma Meme Transformed in Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin

Do you remember, your President Nixon?

—David Bowie, “Young Americans”

Stock characters within 9/11 fiction—the male homosocial perpetrator, the jumpers, the sleeper from a terrorist cell, the hyper-rationalist individual and the money gambler—operate in a trauma meme, the suppositions of which are investigated by the fiction itself and arguably nowhere more so than in Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin (2009).1 The five exemplars are premised on the Western individual initiating or impacted by trauma, which in this novel could refer respectively to the wire walker-potential jumper or the hyper-rationalist judge who sentences him for trespassing on the towers. The meme of 9/11 as a traumatic event has been challenged by theorists Derrida and Baudrillard, and critic Martin Randall. Let the Great World Spin situates, relativizes and compares traumatization through mostly autodiegetic multiperspectivity. Supporting the current understanding in Trauma Studies that traumatic events are devastating and yet may encourage resilience, Let the Great World Spin offers its own message of political and social redemption that was repressed after 11 September. Moreover, McCann’s novel delves into the trauma of individuals but discovers, by contrast, resilience and redemption ← 109 | 110 → through community, whose effects are rendered for the reader by the novel’s having multiple voices. This multiperspectivity facilitates multidirectionality that Michael Rothberg explores: “the result of memory conflict...

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