Cockley, David (2010-01). The Media Spectacle of Terrorism and Response-Able Literature. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • A movement in literature has evolved out of the aftermath of 9/11 to confront the spectacle of terrorism perpetuated by the corporate news media and find a way to respond to terrorism in a more ethical manner. In this dissertation, I examine the influence of the media on literary production in the post-9/11 environment and how writers push back against the foreclosure of the media spectacle of terrorism. I examine a particular practice, infotainment, which crosses over from television news into literature that focuses on terrorism, and I lay out the theoretical framework for understanding literary responses to this practice. Since 9/11, the corporate media has been fixated with terrorism, and the vast amount of literature produced since the tragedy that focuses on terrorism demonstrates terrorism?s influence on literary production. I expose a theoretical basis for how literature intervenes in the spectacle of terrorism, offering a challenge to media foreclosure through an ethical engagement. Then, I examine texts in both the American and global contexts to determine how they intervene in the foreclosure and form more ethical responses. Writers like Don DeLillo and Moshin Hamid confront the unified definition of terrorism the corporate media presents by opening the subject to unanswered questions and in-depth examinations from all angles that enable responses rather than close off diverse perspectives. Literary writers strive to respond to the singular nature of each event, while positing an understanding of the plight of victims and perpetrators alike. The texts I examine each engage the foreclosure of the media spectacle of terrorism, creating a critical discourse by opening gaps, imposing ethical hesitation, reinstituting singularity, and responding to terrorism in an ethical manner. Don DeLillo posits an exemplary challenge to writers issued by terrorism in an often quoted line from Mao II: ?What terrorists gain, novelists lose. The degree to which they influence mass consciousness is the extent of our decline as shapers of sensibility and thought.? DeLillo, along with other contemporary writers, takes up this challenge in order to ethically respond to the spectacle of terrorism.

publication date

  • May 2009