As closely as the issues of representation, ethics, and politics were connected in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the scholarly debate over its literary representations soon shifted to questions of trauma and commemoration, a shift in emphasis that often displaced concerns with the political work that literature can do. The importance of post-9/11 literature, however, depends on its ability to rewrite itself in the coordinate system of geopolitical affairs. This essay reads Don DeLillo's Falling Man and Ian McEwan's Saturday as symptomatic of the ambivalent literary reaction to the political situation after the collapse of the Twin Towers. Tracing the relation between the literary imagination and the socioeconomic and geopolitical conditions for literary production after 9/11, the essay argues that while both novels do important cultural work in pondering the power and the limits of literature after 9/11, they are never fully able to come to terms with the issues of class, poverty, empire, and religion they constantly evoke. While Falling Man and Saturday ask important questions about the place of literature in a post-9/11 world, both novels ultimately fail to assign a meaningful political role to themselves because of their reluctance to imagine a future that is significantly different from the present.
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Clemens Spahr; Prolonged Suspension: Don DeLillo, Ian McEwan, and the Literary Imagination After 9/11. Novel 1 August 2012; 45 (2): 221–237. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-1573949
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