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The Writing of Terrorism: Contemporary American Fiction and Maurice Blanchot

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Christian Klöckner

Terrorism has long been a popular subject for American fiction writers. This book argues that terrorism in 1990s novels by Paul Auster, Philip Roth, and Bret Easton Ellis serves as a key trope to interrogate the limits of writing and the power of literature. Based on the complex literary and philosophical thought of Maurice Blanchot, this study deals with the writer’s terrorist temptation, language’s investment in violence, and literature’s negotiation of radical alterity. Auster’s, Roth’s, and Ellis’s novels elucidate contemporary political and economic developments as well as our cultural fear of, and fascination with, terrorism. The writing of terrorism can thus become the foundation of a different politics where, according to Maurice Blanchot, «there is no explosion except a book.»

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IX. Violence: Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamorama as a Borderline Case

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IX.   Violence: Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamorama as a Borderline Case

The preceding chapters have shown that a fundamental characteristic of terrorism, or rather, a fundamental characteristic of the way we talk about terrorism is that this discourse is deeply preoccupied with boundaries and their transgression, and that “terror” emanates from an extreme challenge by a destitute, unknowable, or even sublime Other that is as inapproachable as it is threateningly close. In Leviathan, this Other comes in the form of the narrator’s dissymmetrical doppelganger writer friend. In American Pastoral, it is the Swede’s own progeny, his daughter Merry who catapults him out of his comfortable idyllic life. In the present chapter, these boundaries simultaneously move further inward and outward to the point where the opposition between inside and outside collapses. In Bret Easton Ellis’s novel Glamorama (1998), the terror of terrorism comes from within the transnational terrain of a globalized consumer world. If Roth’s fin de siècle-project is to look back on America’s history after World War II, and if Auster explores the moment when freedom movements bring about the end of the Cold War, Ellis’s novel can be seen as charting some of the consequences of this global revolution.

In its distant riff on the spy novel, Glamorama negotiates the effects of a refigured geopolitics, redrawn borders, and shifting enemy projections after the end of the Cold War, and it seems to subscribe to a worldview that has projected the end...

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