The Politics of Form: Analyzing Post-Post 9/11 Critical Texts

by Greta Olson


A frequent argument is made in literary studies that form contributes centrally to the content of aesthetic texts. In this talk I wish to argue that form is inherently political and that treating formal structural categories as politically agentive may be a manner in which to question dominant cultural narratives. I shall take my examples from two texts that belong to what I have called a post-post-‘9/11’ sensibility: Moshin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) and the first season of Showtime’s Homeland (2011 -). In the first case the unreliability of the you-narration is employed in order to question the monologic quality of Western reporting on the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the ensuing ‘war on terror.’ In the second case the unreliability and multifocalization of the series’ narrative comprise a self-conscious and ultimately legitimizing examination of US security measures in the post-post-‘9/11’ era. My larger aims are first to show how traditional categories of literary and cultural analysis, such as narrator unreliability, rest on privileged assumptions about the equality of persons involved; and, second, to employ categories from classical narratological analysis to political and culturally critical ends.