Violence, narrative and community after 9/11 a reading of Ian McEwan's Saturday /

by Isherwood, Jennifer.

Abstract (Summary)
Dr. Kim Coates, Advisor This thesis situates Ian McEwan’s novel Saturday (2005) in the context of debates about violence, narrative and community. These debates are becoming increasingly pressing in the aftermath of 9/11, as global violence continues to escalate. Drawing primarily on critiques of the West’s responses to 9/11 by Judith Butler, Jenny Edkins and Slavoj Žižek, I explore the tendency for Western nation states to recycle their trauma into stabilizing narratives that define self against other, disguise the instability and implicit violence of the social order, and erase ambivalent questions about the state’s own complicity in provoking violent conflict. This recycling process works to legitimize the state’s right to respond violently to the trauma in order to prevent future attacks. As an alternative to this impulse to violently order and control, I argue that embracing vulnerability and ambivalence can help us begin to imagine a less violent world. Butler’s notion of “ethical enmeshment,” Žižek’s insistence upon the importance of “selfrelating,” and Edkins’ call for us to “encircle” the revelatory potential of trauma, can help us to interrogate the West’s sense of detached entitlement to security and instead establish an important sense of collective responsibility for global distributions of vulnerability. Set on the day of massive worldwide protests against the coming war in Iraq, McEwan’s Saturday engages with and critiques a dominant post-9/11 narrative frame of imminent terrorist attack. In my reading of the novel, I examine the news media’s role in producing a passive and depoliticized “community of anxiety.” I explore issues of privilege and detachment, as well as the narrative frames that re-inscribe dominant ideas about democratic social order, particularly with regard to the forms of violence that are legitimized or de-legitimized within it. Finally, I iii argue that Saturday moves its protagonist from a position of privileged detachment towards the beginnings of a greater sense of his ethical responsibility for others. Through a story about the invasion of one family’s heavily secured home, McEwan affords us the opportunity to think about ethical responses to violent interventions that have been foreclosed by the military response to 9/11. iv This thesis is dedicated to the memory of my Grandfather, Dennis Woodman, who taught me that 8 x 8 = 64 and always took such great interest in my education. v
Bibliographical Information:


School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:mcewan ian violence in literature terrorism and mass media


Date of Publication:

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