Date: Sept. 10, 2021

9/11: Twenty Years On

When the second of four hijacked passenger airliners flew into the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, shocked onlookers around the globe realized that what they were watching on television was unlikely to be an accident. The terrorists behind the attacks had orchestrated the event so that news stations would have positioned their cameras to broadcast live as the towers and Pentagon—symbols of Western capitalism and military power—burned and collapsed. Twenty years after the event, these images remain horrifying, but the memory of “the day time stopped” (Marianne Hirsch) has also shifted and evolved. While early reactions of trauma, solidarity, and grief were politically translated into renewed nationalism and a “war on terror,” the past two decades have diversified the evaluation of what 9/11 means for American culture. “Sober ceremonies,” John Bodnar stated in the Washington Post in May 2021, “should not mislead us into thinking the public remembrance of this horrific event is a settled matter.”

At this workshop, contributors will reflect on the long-term consequences and reconfigurations of the terrorist attacks in politics, visual culture, literature, and public memory. How have our narratives and images of September 11, 2001, changed over the course of the past two decades? From the uncanny aesthetics of the visual dimension in what Miles Orvell has termed the “destructive sublime” to the political “reconfiguration of the homeland,” as Donald Pease has put it, what are the dominant frameworks that enclose and shape the cultural memory of 9/11 two decades later?

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Organized by Birgit Däwes (Europa-Universität Flensburg).