“All that Howling Space”: “9/11” and the Aesthetic of Noise in Contemporary American Fiction

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This article reappraises representations of “9/11” within a longer history of noise in the American novel. Consumed by the noise of the present, driven by the desire to speak loudly, and convinced of the importance of traumatic “event” both to the present moment and to the lives of future generations, novels of the political “now” are often afflicted by what Jacques Derrida refers to as “archive fever”, a phenomenon that is characterized by an eagerness to dispose of the present into the past and to imagine how the contemporary world will be remembered by future generations (Derrida 1998, 68). In this way, this article argues that “9/11” fictions by Don DeLillo, John Updike, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jess Walter, and Amy Waldman are best understood as ideologically inflected narratives that emphasise the noise of contemporary culture, associating the present with the singular noise of “9/11” and thus limiting how novelists write a history of their contemporary moment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages21
JournalC21 Literature: Journal of 21st-century Writings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2016


  • 9/11
  • contemporary fiction
  • noise
  • Jacques Derrida
  • American fiction


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