Approaches to 9/11: Addressing the Unspeakable

  • Juan José Mosquera Ramallo Erasmus Mundus Masters Crossways in Cultural Narratives


This work will analyse the impact of 9/11 in the creation of fiction, focusing mainly on the presence of the unspeakable as a shaping feature. Elaborating on Naomi Mandel´s dual concept of the unspeakable and on the concept of the performativity of speech acts by Austin and Searle, the unspeakable will be explored as an impossible task and as a means to stop alternative discourses. A wider theoretical framework that includes cultural trauma theory by Jeffrey Alexander and the secular sacredness by Gordon Lynch will be used in this analysis. Three works of fiction on 9/11 written by non-American authors will be studied as examples of different approaches to the unspeakable: Windows on the World, written by the French author Frédéric Beigbeder in 2003 as a failed attempt to reach the rhetoric limits of language through the manipulation of language and fiction; Burnt Shadows, written by the British-Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie in 2009, which elaborates on the ideas of the lack of uniqueness of 9/11 and the use of the unspeakable as a means of avoiding responsibilities; and Ventanas de Manhattan, written by the Spanish author Antonio Muñoz Molina in 2004, a novel that reflects on the presence of the sacred around 9/11 and on the impossibility of language to address the unspeakable, thus calling for other forms of representation.


Author Biography

Juan José Mosquera Ramallo, Erasmus Mundus Masters Crossways in Cultural Narratives