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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 7. Media Defining Terrorism in Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Assignment, Amy Waldman’s The Submission and Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge


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Continuities and discontinuities between pre- and post-9/11 Western terrorist fiction are recognizable through analysis of media impacting character and plot. Conrad and Dürrenmatt’s earlier terrorist fictional works affirm the powers of newspapers for getting the story out. In these cases, media intent seems benign and not motivated by demonstrable ideology, though newspapers contribute to plot dynamics by disseminating misleading or incomplete information. For example, in The Secret Agent, newspapers announce Stevie’s death in the Greenwich Observatory bombing, including details of his jacket collar that lead his sister Winnie Verloc to recognize him as the deceased. Her suicide at the end of the novel is described in the newspaper as “An impenetrable mystery,” yet one of the anarchists, Ossipon, who carries this “much-folded newspaper [in] his pocket” (250), knows the facts contributing to her death and her identity, as does the reader. The Assignment begins with the erroneous premise announced in a London newspaper that Tina von Lambert’s murdered body was found at an Islamic religious site in North Africa. In both instances, the motivation of newspaper publishing seems to be disseminating information for profit as an human interest story. Curiously, similar to the linear form of newspaper articles, narratives of pre-9/11 terrorist fiction from Conrad’s The Secret Agent (1907) to Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Assignment (1986, ← 127 | 128 → trans. 1988) are also mostly...

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