Macquarie University
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Trauma and recovery: cognitive approaches to trauma narrative in three post-9/11 novels

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posted on 2022-03-29, 03:10 authored by Yan Xu
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 gave rise to a new literary sub-genre, post-9/11 literature, which has considerably influenced the recent history of modern American literature. Post-9/11 literature mainly delineates a panoramic picture of anxiety and fear in the Western world. The characters in these novels experience different presentations of post-traumatic stress disorder. They are then rehabilitated with recuperative tools through various means such as empathy, dialogic communication and epistolary writing. Some novels concentrate on telling the stories of the collective or individual traumatic experience in the aftermath of 9/11, where the characters are suffering from spiritual and survival crisis, and thus are seeking a salvation journey to mental recuperation. Some works set New York City as the backdrop to an urban elegy; some fictions explore the topic from a political perspective, such as discussing the relationship of democracy and politics, foreign policy and terrorism. This thesis analyses the trauma narrative in three selected post-9/11 novels: Johnathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, and Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland through the lens of cognitive poetics—mainly from the theories of textual world, possible world, deictic shift, conceptual metaphor and conceptual blending. Cognitive poetics is an innovative theoretical approach, especially suited to investigate trauma narrative. The thesis combines psychological trauma theory with cognitive poetics to understand how 9/11 novelists reproduce the catastrophic 9/11 experiences in literary form and how these stories reflect the process of transferring traumatic memories into traumatic narrative. The primary concern is not simply how post-9/11 fictions create meaning through the representation of 9/11 trauma, but also how 9/11 trauma narratives are understood and interpreted by readers. This project aims to provide a clear and holistic understanding of the intricacies of the three post-9/11 fictions and help refine the methodology of cognitive poetics.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Trauma narrative in post-9/11 novels -- 3.Descriptive framework of cognitive poetics -- 4. Trauma transfer and trauma recovery in the multimodal narrative of Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close -- 5. Externalization of trauma in the counter-narrative of DeLillo's Falling Man -- 6. Resolving post-traumatic identity crisis in the retrospective narrative of O'Neill's Netherland -- 7. Conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 195-212

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Music and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Nick Mansfield

Additional Supervisor 1

Yizhong Ning


Copyright Yan Xu 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xiii, 212 pages : illustrations, map)

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