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

Brady Harrison, Mary-Ann Sontag-Bowman


2001, community, creative acts, grace, interconnectedness, memory, vulnerability, responsibility toward others, September 11


University of Montana


This thesis examines post-September 11th literature, particularly two novels: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer and Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann and the issues surrounding working through trauma and commemorating loss through the lens of trauma theory, ethics, and scholarship on commemoration. Chapter One examines Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which, more than Let the Great World Spin, deals directly with the events of September 11th, and focuses on the ways in which Foer’s novel represents the process of working through trauma as one aided by the formation of community, witnessing, and acts of grace, while also exploring the uncertainty of working through and the potential impossibility of ever completing this process. The chapter particularly engages with the work of trauma theorists and practitioners who stress the importance of connections in allowing survivors of trauma to begin to create narratives around and witness to their experiences. Chapter Two examines McCann’s Let the Great World Spin which deals with the events of September 11, 2001 indirectly, through the resurrection of the towers for a tightrope walker’s daring act and the lives of New Yorkers in 1974. Chapter Two argues for a process of healing and commemoration that includes the creative act as well as an ethical responsibility toward others. Through its exploration of the Let the Great World Spin in conjunction with work on commemoration and the ethical response, the chapter suggests that the novel might emerge as a new form of commemoration, not necessarily to replace the traditional memorials and commemorative acts surrounding September 11th but to augment them. Not least in part because of its contemporary subject matter, it is my hope that this thesis may add to the conversation on the subject of the importance of literature in representing the ways we might respond to violence, work through trauma, and commemorate loss in a manner which points toward the interconnected nature of life and the importance of the creative and ethical response.

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