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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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Stock Characters in 9/11 Fiction is interested in constructing the types of prevalent characters to see what kinds of revealing stories authors narrate about terrorism after 9/11. Typically a reader of fiction relates to principal characters as they develop and mature through the unfolding storyworld of space and time. 9/11 fiction writers disabuse these normative readerly expectations of literary characterization and recast them, thus rethinking convention. Whereas Great Expectations, the realist novel of Dickens, propels Pip, a round character, into a full social fabric, 9/11 fiction deploys flat, symptomatic characters into a tableau of post-11 September existence. According to E. M. Forster, Dickens also successfully employs flat characters. Gradgrind (Hard Times) or the Artful Dodger (Oliver Twist) among many others easily come to mind. “Part of the genius of Dickens is that he does use types and caricatures, people whom we recognize the instant they re-enter, and yet achieves effects that are not mechanical and a vision of humanity that is not shallow” (Forster 109). Protagonists in 9/11 novels are not only flat—or “constructed round a single idea or quality”—in the way E. M. Forster describes “flat characters” (103–104); they are stock characters, meaning they are both identifiable and repeated types in the 9/11 oeuvre. Literary encounters with these seemingly understandable and predictable character types appeals by offering an established vantage to a ← 1 | 2 → contemporary postmodern sensibility of global uncertainty. At the same time, the reader’s relationship with stock characters instructively bears out the...

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