Conjuring September 11, 2001 : Midwest Narratives in the Time of Death Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/cf95jg112

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  • Over the past fourteen years since the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Americans of varied political persuasions have continually identified the day as a defining moment in the history of the nation, which caused a rupture in the cultural rhythm and psyche. This sensibility is present in many narratives that considered the uniqueness of the day, with the majority of these set in New York City. However, for most Americans, the attacks were experienced in a non-local manner mediated through various technologies as well as reactionary policies of the Bush administration and retrospective accounts that followed from critics and authors. Given the disparity between narratives that surround eye-witness of the event and those perceived from afar, this thesis attempts to explore and reconcile these geographical and psychological differences by examining fictive works often described as "September 11", which are set in the Midwest. Through this investigation of place, technologies, and difference, we can trace the development of the cultural memory of these events from catastrophe to commemoration as the analysis moves through nationalism, terrorism, and what might be defined as heartland American conservatism. Ultimately, I argue that though September 11 functioned as a catastrophic event, Americans moved to restore normalcy shortly after the attacks. That is not to say that Americans forgot September 11; instead, pre-September 11 normalcy coexisted within post- September 11 uncertainty. To support this argument, this thesis examines four texts that offer several different perspectives on the event, from the incident itself to the ways in which the attack was ordered. These pieces are, respectively, David Foster Wallace's non-fiction essay "The View from Mrs. Thompson's", Jonathan Franzen's novel Freedom, and Richard Powers' novel The Echo Maker. Despite their differing subject matter and approaches, each of these works ultimately rejects the common notion that September 11 caused an irrevocable break in the cultural rhythm of American ideology in the second half of the twentieth century. If we select Midwestern narratives as representative of September 11 experience, then instead of unique commemoration, we find an American culture of misidentification.
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