Smith's essay examines history, politics, and literary form in September 11 fiction. It begins with the contention that the traditionally conceived relationship between trauma and form poses a problem for the analysis of September 11 fiction. It is often posited that traumatic events produce formal changes in narrative strategies that reflect transformations in historical and political thinking, but many 9/11 novels, like Don DeLillo's Falling Man, do not demonstrate significant formal departures from pre-9/11 works. Others, like Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and IncrediblyClose, offer gestures toward formal innovation but ultimately support sentiments that are tied to a regressive view of history. Yet in turning to a less commonly considered work of September 11 fiction, Laird Hunt's experimental noir The Exquisite, the essay offers another way of thinking about the role of form in relation to political change. Hunt's work shows that formal innovations—in this case, a particularly strange use of ecological metaphor—need not merely reflect historical ruptures, but can also be understood to produce bodily affects that are themselves constitutive of altered attitudes toward the present.
Rachel Greenwald Smith; Organic Shrapnel: Affect and Aesthetics in September 11 Fiction. American Literature 1 March 2011; 83 (1): 153–174. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2010-066
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