The age of Terrorism in the Age of Literature

Authored by: Lynn Patyk

The Routledge History of Terrorism

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415535779
eBook ISBN: 9781315719061
Adobe ISBN: 9781317514879


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The “Age of Terrorism,” as Walter Laqueur has called it, was not coincidentally “the Age of Literature”: the age when imaginative literature was the art form unrivaled both for its social relevance and its capacity to render the depth and variety of human experience. At the historical moment when literary art attained what some might see as its apogee in the great realist novel’s extraordinarily verisimilar recreation of the social world, modern terrorism declared its abhorrence for that world and the passion for its destruction a “creative passion.” 1 If terrorism is understood in part as an art form and, inseparably from that, as a communicative act, then it stands at a pole opposite the novel. 2 While the novel is characterized by its openness to other literary forms and democratic inclusiveness of contesting voices, terrorism enacts a linguistic totalitarianism that seeks to supersede words with an unambiguously monologic Deed capable of transforming social and political realities with one blow. 3

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