Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
English & Film Studies
Gender and Genre
Faculty of Arts
“Falling Men in 9/11 American Fiction"
Gender critics such as Judith Butler and Michael Kimmel argue that post-9/11 American culture has embraced a traditional gender binary that positions men as the dominant protectors of women, children, and the nation as a whole, exemplified by the widespread veneration of heroic firefighters, soldiers, and the civilians of flight 93 in the media (Kimmel 249). This regression reinforces hegemonic masculinity in American culture, which R.W. Connell defines as “the pattern of practice (i.e., things done, not just a set of role expectations or an identity) that allow[s] men’s dominance over women to continue” (Connell and Messerschmidt 832). Christine Beasley has “demassified” hegemonic masculinity by dividing it into two categories: sub-hegemonic masculinity, which refers to traditional modes of dominant masculinity that emphasize brawn and physical aggression, and supra-hegemonic masculinity, which designates the increasingly sublimated practices of dominance undertaken by business professionals. Rather than focusing on the sub-hegemonic ideals venerated after 9/11, my study will focus on a figure of supra-hegemonic masculinity that was suppressed in the United States after 9/11: the American businessman, who embodied the neoliberal values against which 9/11 was staged as a symbolic critique. I argue that this figure is focalized in several important works of 9/11 fiction, which attempt to reintroduce the centrality of this figure in the historical and geopolitical context of American capitalism in transnational markets. "Falling Men in 9/11 American Fiction” explores how novelists such as Don DeLillo, Laila Halaby, Amy Waldman, and Teju Cole identify the absent cause of 9/11 to be aggressive masculine dominance as sublimated through American capitalism. This dominance is depicted in the figuration of domestic gender relations in a way that mirrors and critiques American geopolitical relations abroad. Thus, when Richard Gray claims that post-9/11 American novelists “vacillate […] between large rhetorical gestures acknowledging trauma and retreat into domestic detail,” and further argues that “the link between the two is tenuous, reducing a turning point in national and international history to little more than a stage in a sentimental education,” he is in fact getting it backwards: rather than reducing 9/11 entirely to domestic trauma, this fiction situates itself within the domestic space from where it can dramatize the outward influence that interpersonal gender relations have on oppressive American foreign policies abroad, and vice versa (134). Therefore, in a synthesis of a key debate framed by Richard Gray and Michael Rothberg, I argue that this fiction is inherently dialectical: its “centripetal” orientation, rather than being simply reductive and “sentimental,” establishes the domestic analogue for a greater “centrifugal” critique of hegemonic American ideology as it manifests itself abroad – underscoring that an understanding of domestic gender relations is essential to any analysis of American culture and fiction after 9/11.
Shaw, Justin D., "FALLING MEN IN 9/11 AMERICAN FICTION" (2015). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1713.