Janette Turner Hospital approaches fear from a different impulse in her prescient novel Due Preparations for the Plague. She situates terrorism and the fear it invokes as analogous to the plague, victims waiting for a vile death to take them indiscriminately from their lives. When she began writing the novel prior to the events of September 11, 2001, she could not have known how her ideas would resonate with the largest media event of our time and that the culture of fear would grow so pervasive as to make her critique all the more salient. After 9/11, she did not deny the impact of that day on finishing the text. In an interview with Eleanor Hall, Turner Hospital describes her reaction to the recorded voices of the victims experiencing the tragedy, “there was a sort of radiant calm to them and they wanted to tell the people they loved that they loved them, and I was unprepared for that, you know, and it altered very much the tone of the end of the novel.” Turner Hospital heard the opposite of fear in those voices, that impending death inside of a catastrophic event does not destroy the voice but empowers a final message of hope. Terrorism did not close off the voices of its victims; the voices rose up from the aftermath of the event to inspire and comfort n a time of uncertainty, especially for the families of victims, but also for those left wondering what would become of the world.
Janette Turner Hospital challenges readers to look at the culture of fear that persists in the face of terrorism in a new light. The text examines the importance of critical engagement to take us beyond recognizing the event and into a space where critical engagement can begin to take us beyond the spectacle of terrorism. Both are stories of foreclosure that show how voices are closed off by the fear mongering mechanisms of society, the media and the government, and demonstrate the impact of silencing the voices of individuals.
Turner Hospital takes a transnational view of terrorism, one that crosses borders and forges connections across impossible boundaries to show the global reach of terrorism while envisioning its impact on two people. She explores how government conspiracy functions in the same manner as the spectacle to foreclose lives and empower fear in the aftermath of terrorism.
For Turner Hospital, the text takes a realistic look at the way we prepare for terrorism by asking, “how do we ready ourselves for what might happen tomorrow? What possible preparations can be made?” (401). Each demonstrates how fear is the means through which the unknown becomes palpable in a time of uncertainty, and when societal forces capitalize on fear, art needs to go beyond the foreclosure of the media and the government to critically engage the spectacle of terrorism, bringing about an ethical discourse that allows subjects to live without perpetual fear.
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