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October 9, 2003

In the Ruins of the Future

Today has been devoted to getting myself back on track (to the extent that I imagine my life to be track or a course or whatever linear metaphor one can recall). With Fall Break approaching and a temporary respite from grading, I've had an opportunity to think in a slightly more focused way about my research than usual....

In that context, I flipped through the most recent issue of PMLA and came across Marco Abel's article on Don DeLillo's Harper's essay on 9/11, "In the Ruins of the Future." Abel's essay emphasizes DeLillo's preoccupation "with the question of how to narrate and thus see the event" (1240), noting that DeLillo's account responds to the aftermath of 9/11 "without reducing it to simple explanation or meaning" (1240).

I haven't yet read the DeLillo essay (available here in the Guaridan archives), but what I found more interesting about Abel's essay was his attempt to read DeLillo's essay through the lens of neorealism, the cinematic movement associated with post-World War II Italian cinema (The Bicycle Thief would be the most prominent example). Abel's argument reminded me of my own discussion of Spike Lee's post-9/11 film, 25th Hour, which I associated at the time with Deleuze's crisis in the action-image. Deleuze identifies this "crisis" with Italian neorealism and emphasizes the inability of the neorealist characters to take decisive action, a connection that I made in my original review. The connection between a cinematic aesthetic and DeLillo's writing never quite developed for me, but that may be my suspicion toward that kind of analogy. I simply don't think that narration can be reduced to seeing or vice versa (but I wouldn't mind being convinced otherwise).

But with that connection in mind, I'm thinking about expanding my blog entry on Hour into something larger, either a conference paper or something larger. I know there are some complications in terms of Lee's rapid-fire editing (against the long takes associated with neorealism), but as Abel argues, "the neorealist mode of seeing emerged from the destruction permeating Europe at the end of World War II. DeLillo's narrative begins with and responds to another, albeit different ruin" (1249). The shot of Ground Zero (which, if I recall, is relatively static) seems pertinent here, and I am still convinced that Lee succeeds in not placing 9/11 into a simple narrative, that, like DeLillo, he "avoids reducing [9/11] to a moralistic lesson" (1248). I wasn't planning on going back to Lee's film, but now I'd really like to revisit it.

Posted by chuck at October 9, 2003 7:42 PM

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