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Working Through 9/11: Literature, Film, and Memorial Culture


Admission requirements

This course is intended for students from a limited number of programmes. Because of the limited capacity available for each programme, all students who will enroll are placed on a waiting list. The definite admission will be made according to the position on the waiting list and the number of students from each programme.


The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, Turkey, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, as well as the so-called refugee crisis have given new relevance and even urgency to the main subject of this course: a critical investigation of the literary and cultural response to what is (controversially) called “9/11” and other acts of terrorism. Aiming both to study and to contribute to critical and theoretical debates about terrorism, this interdisciplinary course will explore the ways in which recent novels and films reflect on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, and to what extent they succeed in challenging “us versus them” political discourses and Orientalist stereotypes—both of which have only become intensified since the most recent terrorist attacks. Drawing on theories of trauma and memory, we’ll study the often innovative and intermedial literary strategies and cinematographic techniques writers and film makers use to reflect on post-9/11 political discourse and the so-called War on Terror. Besides U.S. writers like Jonathan Safran Foer, Don DeLillo, Art Spiegelman, and Amy Waldman, we’ll also read novels by Mohsin Hamid and Nadeem Aslam, which critically interrogate U.S. exceptionalist political discourse and place terrorism in a historical, transnational, and postcolonial perspective. Among the films we’ll discuss are the Naudet brothers’ 9/11, Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, Alain Brigand’s 11/09/01, Gavin Hood’s Rendition, Chris Morris’s Four Lions, and Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. Finally, we’ll take a critical look at the contentious history of the memorialization of 9/11 at “Ground Zero,” parodied in Waldman’s novel The Submission. Studying both the political mobilization and (following Judith Butler) the ethics of trauma, this course aims to challenge students to think “through and beyond terror” (Boehmer 2010).

Course objectives

This course offers an interdisciplinary approach to the cultural response to the 9/11 attacks in literature, film, and memorialization practices and aims to:

  • develop students’ analytical and critical skills through in-depth reading of literary texts and films related to 9/11 and (counter)terrorism in general, which will be studied in their historical and cultural contexts;

  • give insight into the central issues in ongoing critical and theoretical debates about the cultural response to 9/11 and (counter)terrorism, particularly the notion of U.S. exceptionalism, the discursive construction of (trans)national, cultural, racialized and gendered identities, migration, (neo-)orientalism, and multiculturalism;

  • introduce students to and develop a critical understanding of trauma theory and memory studies and their relevance to the novels, films, this courses and memory culture under discussion.

More generally this course also aims to:

  • develop students’ skills to conduct independent research and to formulate clear research questions and a viable thesis statement, taking into account the theories and method of the field;

  • develop students’ oral and written communication and other academic skills through in-class discussion and group presentation, a review essay, an essay proposal and a research essay, respectively;

  • develop students’ ability to cooperate with other students in preparing an in-class group presentation;

  • develop students’ ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of other students and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it.

(ResMA only): the student has the ability to engage with and actively contribute to complex theoretical debates.


See timetable.

Mode of instruction


Course load

Total course load for the course (10 ec x 28 hours): 280 hours.

  • hours spent on attending seminars (40 hours);

  • time for studying the required literature and film screening (120 hours);

  • time to prepare presentation and write a short assignment and research paper (including research proposal/reading/research) (120 hours).

Assessment method

  • oral presentation (20%) and participation (10%);

  • short writing assignment (10%);

  • essay proposal and research essay (c. 4000-4500 words; 60%).


The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


If the final grade is insufficient, only the research essay can be rewritten.


Blackboard will be used for specific information about (components of) the course, such as links to recommended critical and theoretical articles, websites, discussion questions, presentation and essay topics, and academic writing materials.

Reading list

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

  • Don DeLillo, Falling Man (Scribner);

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

  • Amy Waldman, The Submission (Windmill or Picador);

  • Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Harvest);

  • Nadeem Aslam, The Wasted Vigil (Vintage International);

  • a number of political speeches and critical and theoretical texts will be made accessible on Blackboard;

  • There will be a screening of the assigned films.


Via uSis.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.




Mw. Dr. J.C. (Joke) Kardux