Beyond "infinite jest": Post-postmodern solidarity in 9/11 narratives

Najwa Heather Al-Tabaa, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

My thesis interrogates the postmodern view of popular culture as being banal and questions Theodore Adorno’s view of postmodern consumer culture as ultimately antihuman(istic). My re-reading of postmodern popular culture finds that there is potential for meaningful human interaction through popular culture. My re-reading asserts that popular culture is capable of being a vehicle for solidarity. In my analysis I locate a postmodern paradigm shift in which human solidarity becomes a necessary consideration and focus of postmodern narratives and art forms. I term this shift “post-postmodernism” which is marked by a focus on solidarity.1 While the shift to the post-postmodern begun in pre-9/11 context, the post-9/11 context makes the shift particularly evident. The focus of this project lies in the role of human solidarity in post-9/11 narratives and how those narratives subscribe theoretically to the post-postmodern paradigm.^ The texts I am working with are the fictional novel Falling Man by Don DeLillo, the fictional novel Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, the graphic narrative and memoir In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman, and the 9/11 Digital Archive. While there are many other 9/11 narratives that also explore what it means to be human, I choose these particular texts because of their exploration of human solidarity through the falling man image. In my discussion of the Digital Archive I focus the discussion on five images that illustrate a pastiche of official documented history and narrative with artistic reinterpretation of that history and narrative of the event(s) of 9/11, which again has a particular emphasis on the World Trade Center. While there is a plethora of 9/11 texts and narratives that would be excellent examples to include, I choose these particular texts because of their emphasis on the visual rhetoric of 9/11. The impetus for my project is a quote by David Foster Wallace: “I just think that fiction that isn’t exploring what it means to be human today isn’t good art” (McCaffery 131). My project demonstrates how these texts utilize pop-culture, and particularly visual culture as a way to initiate a sense of compassion and human solidarity in their characters and readers. My thesis begins by considering the way popular culture functions in postmodern society and how it can create a sense of solidarity. The project focuses on 9/11 narratives and explores how the narration of the event is indicative of a post-postmodern literary/narrative shift because there is a need to embrace solidarity and cope with the “organic [human] shrapnel” (DeLillo 16) of the event(s). My aim in this project is to demonstrate a shift in American postmodern literature and show how these authors embrace a sense of solidarity by addressing the concept of what it means to be human today to their readers and how they use the postmodern signs of popular culture as a vehicle for that interrogation, which ultimately reinforces the human connection behind the postmodern American culture.^ 1The solidarity I aim to reference in this project focuses on a sense of solidarity that is not group specific, but rather focused on the human community as a whole. There are various forms of solidarity – from Marxist to feminist solidarity, but the way I view and use solidarity in this project lends itself to a conception that solidarity is not necessarily group specific, but human specific.^

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|American Studies|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Al-Tabaa, Najwa Heather, "Beyond "infinite jest": Post-postmodern solidarity in 9/11 narratives" (2010). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1477763.
http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI1477763

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