English 149-1 - Winter, 2018

Topics in Literature

Topic: Post-9/11 Literature: Narrative in an Age of Terrorism

Class Information

Instructor: Anderson, Katherine
CRN: 74419
Time: TR 3:10-4:30
Location: 261 Olson


Everything changed after the planes hit the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. We now live in a “post-9/11” world, defined by our obsessions with security, warfare, terrorism, ethnicity, and national identity. Certainly, 9/11 is the defining event of the 21st century (at least to date) for the United States, but what about the rest of the world, Western and otherwise?

In this course, we’ll examine the literary response to the events of September 11th, 2001 and their aftermath. Throughout, we’ll consider the developing, distinctive identity of a body of twenty-first-century writing (often called "Post-9/11 literature") that is both American and transnational. In addition to offering an introduction to the concept of terrorism and to the production of knowledge about political violence, the course will interrogate the influence contemporary writers have on the ways we shape our cultural narratives about 9/11, terrorism, warfare, security, ethnicity, religion, politics, globalization, and national identity, and conversely, the way cultural narratives about those things influence contemporary writers. Our discussions will be framed by our attention to both the writers’ aesthetic choices and their cultural/political claims.

Warning: This course incorporates mature themes. Some of the texts we’ll read include representations of graphic violence and/or sexuality, and all of them deal with emotionally troubling issues of some kind. Please be certain you are willing and able to discuss this kind of material in a mature and respectful way.


Short Assignments: Reading Responses, In-Class Writing, Quizzes, etc. (20%)
Review Essay 1 (Single Text) (25%)
Review Essay 2 (Comparative) (30%)
Final Exam (25%)


Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain
Exit West, Mohsin Hamid
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid
How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position, Tabish Khair
Saturday, Ian McEwan
Burnt Shadows, Kamila Shamsie
Zero Dark Thirty (film), Kathryn Bigelow