a1 Lucy Bond works as a tutor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. She is in the final stages of completing her doctoral thesis on the American memorial culture of 9/11.
This paper contends that 9/11 remains subject to a crisis in criticism, resulting from the failure of certain strains within American studies to sufficiently separate their modes of critique from the ideological means of 9/11's manipulation. An overreliance upon themes of trauma, and a failure to observe the means by which these discourses have been compromised by their mobilization in political rhetoric, has led to the development of an interpretative void unable to produce a much-needed counternarrative. Whilst the explicit politicization of 11 September has been widely criticized, far less remarked upon is the extent to which the tropes in which 9/11 is represented have been standardized across popular, political, critical and artistic narratives. Failure to challenge the basic terms of this movement has engendered a compromised interpretative field, in which frames of reference slip too easily between the public and the personal, simultaneously militarizing mourning and sentimentalizing politics. This compromises counterhegemonic narratives, neutering the force of their thrust by presenting them as echoing, and even reinforcing, the discourses of the public–political realm. I will contend that this crisis of representation has arisen, at least in part, from the ubiquity of traumatic narratives, which have been transferred across discursive realms, disguising crucial authorial and critical differences, and seeming to validate the perspective of the state by testifying to an apparent unity of interpretation and response.
The author would like to thank Jessica Rapson for her invaluable comments and encouragement in helping prepare this article. Thanks must also go to Rick Crownshaw for his continued support and advice.