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The Writing of Terrorism: Contemporary American Fiction and Maurice Blanchot


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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Over the course of researching for and writing this book, I have, to speak with Maurice Blanchot, incurred infinite debts. My deep gratitude goes to Sabine Sielke, who throughout the years and her roles as my boss, advisor, colleague, and friend has been unwavering in her support and pushed me on whenever I seemed to get lost. I could not have gotten a better start into my academic career. Michael Bernard-Donals and Thomas Claviez were instrumental in getting a better grip on Maurice Blanchot’s and Emmanuel Levinas’s thought. I am also very grateful for the support of Norbert Finzsch, who has always been a source of inspiration for me, as well as that of Marion Gymnich, who as the chair of my dissertation committee safely steered my project across the finish line.

My project has benefited greatly from discussions with Katrin Amian, Michael Butter, Birte Christ, Katrin Dauenhauer, Andrew Pendakis, and Max Rankenburg. Particularly big thanks go to Simone Knewitz who read various iterations of this book and helped improve its prose and its coherence significantly. Edmunda Ferreira helped save my sanity during the final writing phase with her big heart, her open ears, her encouragement, and seemingly endless supply of cigarettes.

Enrico Klinkebiel accompanied me through pretty much all the stages of this book. As Blanchot knew, writing a book can be a grueling experience but I am not aware he ever gave much thought to the travails of a writer’s partner. For...

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