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The Bereaved Post-9/11 Orphan Boy: Representing (and Relativizing) Crisis and Healing, Tradition and Innovation
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Language, Literature and Intercultural Studies. (Kulturvetenskapliga forskningsmiljön (KUFO))ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7640-0639
2014 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The Bereaved Post-9/11 Orphan Boy: Representing (and Relativizing) Crisis and Healing, Tradition and Innovation

 

The sorrowing child is a central figure in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005) and Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007). These best-selling and award-winning novels – both of which break traditional frames of the novelistic genre through their use of visual material – feature a bereaved boy whose personal quest is to re-connect with his dead father. Nine-year-old Oskar Schell in Foer’s novel has recently lost his father in the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, which makes him a “Twin Tower orphan” even though his mother is still alive. In Selznick’s novel, Hugo Cabret’s father has died in a fire in a museum, which has made Hugo fatherless as well as motherless. The setting is Paris in the 1930s, but I will argue that The Invention of Hugo Cabret has much in common with Foer’s novel and that it may fruitfully be read as a post-9/11 narrative. Although these two novels are formally innovative, the function of the orphan harks back to earlier uses of this figure in, for instance, nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century fiction where the fictional orphan’s cultural work is nothing less than to heal the adult world. Despite their traditional use of the orphan, however, I will suggest that both of these novels have the potential to raise public awareness about pre-9/11 wars and crises outside the boundaries of the USA, thus providing a more nuanced perspective on the national crisis and the War on Terror triggered by the Twin Tower attack in September 2001.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014.
National Category
Humanities
Research subject
English
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-31923OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-31923DiVA: diva2:712992
Conference
European Association for American Studies 60th Anniversary Conference - America: Justice, Conflict, War
Available from: 2014-04-17 Created: 2014-04-17 Last updated: 2014-11-21Bibliographically approved

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Holmgren Troy, Maria
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