TERRORISM AND THE POSTMODERN NOVEL

 

(Lent Term, 2006)

 

Tutor: Robert Appelbaum

 

As students of contemporary fiction we now find ourselves challenged to ask questions that are political and social as well as literary, but we need to learn anew how to do it.  The topic of terrorism provides a particularly clear and urgent case of the challenge.  Has literary fiction provided us with adequate responses to the reality of terrorism in the post-modern age?  If the dominant model emerges in the work of Don Delillo and his suggestion that there is a profound sympathy between the terrorist and the novelist, as so many critics have argued, what are we to say about literary terrorism or terrorist literature in the age of a A war on terror?  Does the reality of terrorism, as authors like Roth, Le Carre, and Houllebecq suggest, express a fatal flaw in the peaceable existence of Western civilization, or do such fictional suggestions amount to blaming the victims, the real victims, of irrational evil?

 

In this course we will read a number of novels that are entertaining, moving, and intelligent, novels written since 1970 that examine the phenomenon of terrorism from a number of perspectives and with a variety of purposes.  We will also explore the theory and history of terrorism in the modern age, and discuss the shape of postmodernity for both contemporary fiction and contemporary violence.  One presentation and weekly position papers will be required of all students as well as final dissertations. Dissertations written at the conclusion of the course should delve into fiction, theory, history, and, hopefully, critical, which is to say moral, awareness all at once.

 

Seminar Programme

 

Week 1      Representing Terror: Perspectives and the Image

                   Press Clippings on Eric Rudolph (Olympic Bomber) : a handout: also          available on-line at my proprietary web site   

                   Bharati Mukerjee, The Management of Grief: Available in The Middleman and Other Stories, on short loan at the Library

Week 2      Assassination and Historical Hope

                   Don Dellilo, Libra

 

Week 3      The Middle East, Part I: Western Suspense

                   John Le Carre, The Little Drummer Girl

 

Week 4      The Middle East, Part II: Palestinian Perspectives

                   Sahar Kalifeh, Wild Thorns

 

Week 5      The Stockholm Syndrome (Independent Study week)

                   Mary McCarthy, Cannibals and Missionaries

 

Week 6      Novelists and Terrorists

                   Don Delillo, Mao II

 

Week 7      Weatherman and the American Dream

                   Philip Roth, American Pastoral

Week 8      Travesty and The Troubles

                   Patrick McCabe, Breakfast on Pluto

 

Week 9      The Romance of Victimization

                   Ann Patchett, Bel Canto

 

Week 10    9/11

                   Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism

                   Jacques Derrida, Interview on Philosophy and Terror

                   Michel Houllebecq, Platform

 

Primary Reading

 

Don Delillo, Libra

John LeCarre, The Little Drummer Girl

Sahar Khalifeh, Wild Thorns

Mary McCarthy, Cannibals and Missionaries

Don Delillo, Mao II

Philip Roth, American Pastoral

Patrick McCabe, Breakfast on Pluto

Ann Patchett, Bel Canto

Giovanna Borradori, Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida

Michel Houellebecq, Platform

 

Suggested Additional Primary Reading

 

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons

Henry James, The Princess Casamassima

Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent

G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday

Albert Camus, The Just

Gerry Conlon,  Proved Innocent

Philip Roth, Operation Shylock

Ciaran Carson, The Star Factory

Russell Banks, Cloudsplitter

John Le Carre, Absolute Friends

 

Secondary Reading

 

Books

Abrams, Sabrina Fuchs, Mary McCarthy: Gender, Politics, and the Postwar Intellectual

Cobbs, John L., Understanding John le Carré

Crenshaw, Martha, and John Pimlott, eds., Encyclopaedia of World Terrorism

Der Derian, James, Antidiplomacy : Spies, Terror, Speed, and War

Fay, Marie-Therese, Northern Ireland’s Troubles : the Human Costs

Foertsch, Jacqueline, ed., Terrorism and the Postmodern Novel: Studies in the Novel 36.3

Lacqueur, Walter, The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction

Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror

Martin, Gus, Understanding Terrorism : Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues

Melchiori, Barbara Arnett, Terrorism in the Late Victorian Novel

Sullivan, Noel, ed. Terrorism, Ideology, and Revolution

Parenti, Michael, Terrorism Trap: September 11 and Beyond

Scanlan, Margaret, Plotting Terror: Novelists and Terrorists in Contemporary Fiction

Simon, Jeffrey D., The Terrorist Trap: America=s Experience with Terrorism

Simon, Reeva S., The Middle East in Crime Fiction: Mysteries, Spy Novels, and Thrillers   from 1916 to the 1980s

 

Articles

Baker, Peter, The Terrorist as Interpreter: Mao II in Postmodern Context, Postmodern Culture 4.2

Bragg, Melvyn, The Little Drummer Girl: An Interview with John Le Carré, in Bold, Alan Norman, ed.  The Quest for Le Carré

Briley, Ron, The Little Drummer Girl and John le Carré: The Search for Terrorism's Root Causes, Popular Culture Review 14.2

Hantke, Steffen, God Save Us from Bourgeois Adventure: The Figure of the Terrorist in Contemporary American Conspiracy Fiction, Studies in the Novel 28

Harmaneh, Walid, That Tempestuous Loveliness of Terror, Literary Research 18

Harphan, Geoffrey Galt, Symbolic Terror, Critical Inquiry 28

Lyotard, Jean-François, Terror on the Run, in Terror and Consensus: Vicissitudes in French Thought, ed. Jean-Joseph Goux and Philip R. Wood

Parrish, Timothy L, The End of Identity: Philip Roth's American Pastoral, Shofar 19.1

Rowe, John Carlos, Mao II and the War on Terrorism, South Atlantic Quarterly 103

Royal, Derek Parker, Fictional Realms of Possibility: Reimagining the Ethnic Subject in Philip Roth's American Pastoral, Studies in American Jewish Literature 20

Simmons, Ryan, What Is a Terrorist?  Contemporary Authorship, the Unabomber, and Mao II, MFS: Modern Fiction Studies 45.3

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, Terror: A Speech after 9-11, Boundary 2: An International Journal of Literature and Culture 31.2

Walker, Joseph S., A Kink in the System: Terrorism and the Comic Mystery Novel, Studies in the Novel 36.3

Whitebrook, Maureen, Reading Don DeLillo’s Mao II as a Commentary on Twentieth-Century Politics, European Legacy 6