Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Postmodern Tragedy

I am about to launch into reading texts that deal with postmodernism, terrorism, and 9/11, so I am thinking through the particular aspects of the World Trade Center attacks that make them particularly postmodern. The amatuer and professional footage, the global media networks, the discussions that have carried on through new media, and the terrorists capitalizing on an unwittingly complicit media all make this a particular postmodern tragedy. The question I have is, how can literature shed new light on a decidedly new media event? What is it about literature that makes this possible?

I will always hold to my argument that literature asks unanswerable questions that push the dialogue into new territory. The media foreclosure of the discourse in the post 9/11 world can be confronted anew by literary texts that refocus the discussion on individuals coping with the repercussions of the tragedy and the way it played out in the sphere of new media. Furthermore, literature slows the engagement from its hyperspeed on global networks that infultrate public space and shape cultural memory. The process of reading allows for careful consideration by a lone reader, allowing singular responses to take shape instead of mass consensus. Lastly, many texts not only respond to the tragedy but allow for new responses as well, literature's response-ability.


Monica said...

I wonder if the first and most obvious reason that literature "makes this possible" is, very simply, that it is literature--that it is NOT comprised of media images, that it (in the case of DeLillo) even challenges the media images that have become so emblematic of the catastrophe. I have to say, though, that your inclusion in this post of one of the spectacular media images of 9/11 is problemtic in this regard. But perhaps you mean it to be so.

Monica said...

Oops. I meant "problematic" in the second-to-last sentence. Typo.

Danielle Moyer said...

Literature definitely allows for an individual response from the reader. Two people sitting together reading from the same book and reading the exact same lines will not come to the same conclusions. That is the beauty of literature, but it also holds its problems. It almost seems impossible to completely form a conclusion on the basis of individual thought. In fact, most thoughts are dependent on a thought or event of the past. My interpretation of the events on 9/11 derive from events that have occurred in my past. For example, when I read about the cop duo of Brian & Paul, there is already an image created from my interpretation of a police officer. My police officer is not wearing the NYPD logo. My officer is wearing an LAPD logo. I immediately picture the jerk that wrote me a ticket on Van Nuys Blvd. the other day and already hate both Paul & Brian before I continue to the next line. Therefore, it can be said that literature does allow for detachments of the formulation of events composed by the media through that individual response/thought, but I must ask: are we truly detached?

ashley said...

Literature can shed new light on decidedly new media events through providing voices to individual authors, to those who experienced the event on a personal level and cannot or will not be interviewed - so many more opinions can be expressed through literature (unlike the news media, where only a few strong opinions exist). A plurality of voices is important - we should not have a monolithic media for a country composed of so much diversity. Also, literature does not need to be full of straightforward political debate or commentary - unlike the media, a lot of literature works to inform the reader and then to allow them to make their own conclusions (even if we are being led in a certain direction). Different kinds of experiences and ideas are important to inform a well-rounded idea or concept of an event.

I also believe that the media hugely manipulates images to achieve the reaction that it wants. While literature can evoke emotions through words, it is important to not entirely base our ideas or biases on pictures alone (which can be deceiving or not show the full picture). With literature, we add onto events our own meaning and inform it with our own experiences as Danielle points out, and this is a much more fair way of perceiving an event than basing feelings on flashy pictures and a news anchor with an urgent, serious tone.