The mechanisms of trauma in post-9/11 literature

Riccardo Gramantieri


The terrorist attack of 11 September 2001 was a momentous event that marked contemporary history. For many people it was the ultimate traumatic event, and as such it was able to arouse representation, in addition to bring to mind memories and fears, which were believed to be forgotten or related to distant moments of our history.

During the following decade, the account of the events of Ground Zero was such an emotional literary topos for many Anglo-American writers that critics coined the term post-9/11 literature to indicate a series of novels that, directly or indirectly, describe the feeling of loss, terror and catastrophe ascribable to the event. Taken as a whole, as a single narrative corpus, in the progression of works that make up this new literary genre one can identify an analogy with the reactions that gradually manifest themselves in a person who has suffered a trauma or a loss. The narrative representations of the destruction of the Twin Towers seem to follow the same phases of the reactions to trauma identified in various areas by psychologists such as Kübler-Ross, Drotar and Moses.

The purpose of this study is to show how, during the decade following the events of 9/11, Anglo-American writers reacted, writing their works, with the same mechanisms with which common folks react upon being given tragic news.


Ground Zero, literature, mourning; object-relations; trauma; September 11, 2001.

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