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Working Through 9/11: Literature, Film, and Memorial Culture in the Shadow of No Towers


Admission requirements

Relevant bachelor’s degree.


The 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11 in 2011 has refueled the critical debates about the literary and cultural response to what we’ve come to call “9/11” . Aiming to contribute to this debate, this course will begin by exploring the ways in which novels by recent American writers such as Jonathan Saffran Foer, Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, and Joseph O’Neill reflect on the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and/or reimagine life in the aftermath of these events. Drawing on theories of trauma and memory, we’ll study the sometimes innovative and intermedial literary strategies these and other writers use to represent life “in the shadow of no towers” (to borrow the title of Art Spiegelman’s graphic narrative, which we’ll also read). We’ll also explore the ways in which in post-9/11 literature and film try to counter the “us versus them” rhetoric of the aftermath as well as the relationship between politics and aesthetics in these texts. Among the films we’ll discuss are the Naudet brothers’ 9/11, Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 and Chris Morris’s Four Lions. We’ll also read novels by immigrant writers such as Monica Ali and Mohsin Hamid that critically interrogate the re-emergence of exceptionalist political discourse and Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis in the wake of 9/11. Finally, we’ll take a critical look at the culture of commemoration surrounding 9/11, from the memorial walls of photographs and poems in the immediate aftermath to ongoing debates about the memorialization of 9/11 at “Ground Zero” in Manhattan and elsewhere. Throughout the course, we will ask ourselves if there is such a genre as (post-)9/11 fiction and film and what the politics of such a genre might be.

Course objectives

This course aims to

  • (further) develop students’ analytical and critical skills through in-depth reading of literary texts and some films in their historical and cultural contexts.

  • introduce students to trauma and memory theory and to provide a critical understanding of the concept of U.S. exceptionalism

  • develop students’ skills to conduct independent research

  • develop students’ oral presentation skills through an oral, in-class presentation (individual or small group)

  • develop their ability to comprehend theoretical and critical insights and apply them in a research essay


See timetable

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Oral presentation and discussion (30%) and

  • research essay (c. 4000 words; 70%).


At least three weeks before the course starts, the Blackboard site will be open for self-enrolment. There you can find the course syllabus, as well as study questions, recommended critical articles, links to useful websites, and essay topics. Please note that there is a reading assignment for week 1 (see syllabus on Blackboard).

Reading list

  • Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Penguin)

  • Don DeLillo, Falling Man (Scribner)

  • John Updike, Terrorist (Random House)

  • Art Spiegelman, In the Shadow of No Towers (Pantheon)

  • Cormac McCarthy, The Road (Vintage)

  • Joseph O’Neill, Netherland (Harper Perennial)

  • Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Harvest)

  • Amy Waldman, The Submission (Picador)

  • Randa Jarrar, A Map of Home (New York: Penguin Books 2008)


Via uSis.

Registration Studeren à la carte

More information in Dutch can be found here
Information in English can be obtained via email.


Email: Ms.dr. J.C. Kardux


Since several of the novels we’ll read revisit F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby, students are recommended to read The Great Gatsby during the summer in preparation for the course.