This book investigates the September 11, 2001 attacks as a case study of cultural trauma, as well as how the use of widely-distributed, easily-accessible forms of popular culture can similarly focalize evaluation of other moments of acute and profoundly troubling historical change. The attacks confounded the traditionally dominant narrative of the American Dream, which has persistently and pervasively featured optimism and belief in a just world that affirms and rewards self-determination. This shattering of a worldview fundamental to mainstream experience and cultural understanding in the United States has manifested as a cultural trauma throughout popular culture in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Popular press oral histories, literary fiction, television, and film are among the multiple, ubiquitous sites evidencing preoccupations with existential crisis, vulnerability, and moral ambivalence, with fate, no-win scenarios, and anti-heroes now pervading commonly-told and readily-accessible stories. Christine Muller examines how popular culture affords sites for culturally-traumatic events to manifest and how readers, viewers, and other audiences negotiate their fallout.
Christine Muller is Dean of Saybrook College and Lecturer in American Studies at Yale University, USA. Her research focuses on popular culture in the first decades of the twenty-first century, particularly through the lens of post-September 11 cultural trauma in the era of the War on Terror.
1. Introduction: September 11, 2001, Cultural Trauma, and Popular Culture
2. Popular Press Oral Histories of September 11
3. Limning the "Howling Space" of September 11 through Don DeLillo's Falling Man
4. The Crisis Fetish in Post-September 11 American Television
5. "Nothing To Do with All Your Strength": Power, Choice, and September 11 in The Dark Knight
6. Zero Dark Thirty and the Fantasy of Closure
7. Conclusion: Cultural Trauma: September 11, 2001 and Beyond