The Cultural Significance of 9/11
12th September 2011
“I became interested in the way our culture felt the desperate need to represent 9/11 but also to ward off representations of 9/11. . . . From the beginning, you find strictures against photographing the site, but you will also find a vast number of photographs, even photographs of people taking photographs.”—Mark Redfield
Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The terrorist attacks that day, did symbolic as well as literal damage. A trace of this cultural shock echoes in the American idiom “9/11”: a bare name-date conveying both a trauma (the unspeakable happened then) and a claim on our knowledge. In the first of the two interlinked essays making up The Rhetoric of Terror, Marc Redfield proposes the notion of “virtual trauma” to describe the cultural wound that this name-date both deflects and relays. Virtual trauma describes the shock of an event at once terribly real and utterly mediated. In consequence, a tormented self-reflexivity has tended to characterize representations of 9/11 in texts, discussions, and films, such as World Trade Center and United 93.
To read more about Marc Redfield and his thoughts on 9/11, visit Today at Brown.
To learn more about the book, you can listen to a podcast by Mark Redfield or watch a short video clip from the author.