Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Eric Reimer

Commitee Members

David Schuldberg, Louise Economides


9/11 Literature, Community, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Grief, Multimodality, Trauma, Visuality


University of Montana


The attack on the World Trade Center was said to have been “the day that changed the world.” With technological access to up-to-date newsfeeds and streaming broadcasts, the entire world was privy to the event unfolding in downtown New York. “9/11,” as it was metonymically abbreviated, was marked by visuality. While people around the world watched from afar and Manhattan residents experienced the crashing planes, crumbling towers, and billowing ash first-hand, the day was marked by the highly visual nature of the spectacle. With the flood of destructive images, the survivors of the attack (i.e. New Yorkers) were compelled to respond to what they witnessed; they did so with images. Through amateur photographs, “Missing Person” posters, impromptu memorials, and eventually “Portraits of Grief,” New York citizens responded to their confusion the only way they knew how: try to derive meaning from the destructive images by producing images reflecting their horror, hope, and grief. Through these modes of sharing experiences, a community began to form between strangers of New York who had shared the commonality of loss. Although several novelists have written literature surrounding the attacks on the World Trade Center, many have circumvented some of the pivotal components of September 11th. To create a holistic literary product, there are three vital elements to be accounted for: the aspect of visuality, the victims’ confusion and grief, and the aspect of a rehabilitative community. Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a unique and stylistically-distinctive representation of the 9/11 event. Foer’s use of verbal avoidance strategies point to the utter confusion and grief of trauma victims. His use of multimodality, an alternative formatting strategy that implements differing fonts and photographs, speaks to the highly visual aspect of September 11th. Also, Foer emphasizes the importance of building a community in the midst of a traumatized individual’s fragmentation of reality and his/her personal grief. Therefore, Foer’s novel is one of the few to fully encapsulate the aesthetic quality of September 11th while also accounting for the victims’ grief and their restorative process through community.

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© Copyright 2012 Katy Lynn McAlary