Plotting Terror: Novelists and Terrorists in Contemporary Fiction

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University of Virginia Press, 2001 - Literary Collections - 199 pages

Is literature dangerous? In the romantic view, writers were rebels--Shelley's "unacknowledged legislators of mankind"--poised to change the world. In relation to twentieth-century literature, however, such a view becomes suspect. By looking at a range of novels about terrorism, Plotting Terror raises the possibility that the writer's relationship to actual politics may be considerably reduced in the age of television and the Internet.

Margaret Scanlan traces the figure of the writer as rival or double of the terrorist from its origins in the romantic conviction of the writer's originality and power through a century of political, social, and technological developments that undermine that belief. She argues that serious writers like Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Doris Lessing, and Don DeLillo imagine a contemporary writer's encounter with terrorists as a test of the old alliance between writer and revolutionary.

After considering the possibility that televised terrorism is replacing the novel, or that writing, as contemporary theory would have it, is itself a form of violence, Scanlan asks whether the revolutionary impulse itself is dying--in politics as much as in literature. Her analyses take the reader on a fascinating exploration of the relationship between actual bombs and stories about bombings, from the modern world to its electronic representation, and from the exercise of political power to the fiction writer's power in the world.



The Terrorist Rival
Displaced Causes
Novelist as Terrorist Terrorism as Fiction
Is Terrorism Dead?
Conrad and the Unabomber

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About the author (2001)

Margaret Scanlan, Department Chair and Professor of English at Indiana University South Bend, is the author of Traces of Another Time: History and Politics in Postwar British Fiction.

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