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Changed Worlds? American Studies, Trauma Studies, and September 11, 2001

  • Christine MullerEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter confronts the notion of a post-September 11, 2001 “changed world” according to theoretical and methodological trajectories within both American Studies and Trauma Studies. First, I delineate these trajectories’ primary concerns with politics and representation at the time of the September 11 attacks as the conventional frameworks within which knowledge of that day and its aftermath came to be understood in the ensuing decade. I then use a popular culture approach common to these frameworks, but branch away from Freudian-based views of traumatization as an individualized experience with pathological connotations to attend to cultural trauma as an intersubjective phenomenon rooted manifestly in historical causation. Drawing on psychologist Ronnie Janoff-Bulman’s cognitive model of psychological trauma, I define cultural trauma as a radical disruption of fundamental, culturally-generated and structured beliefs about what comprises a community’s shared worldview. In doing so, I focus on how the horrifying and widely-witnessed hijackings shattered assumptions crucial to mainstream American understandings of daily life by confounding the dominant values of optimism, self-determination, and faith in a just world. Viewing culture as a site for struggles of power, I argue that popular culture in the twenty-first century’s first decade—specifically, film and television—narratively engages with the vulnerability showcased by that day’s public deaths, primarily through a preoccupation with no-win scenarios.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wilkes UniversityWilkes-BarreUSA

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