. The Gigantic

Marc Redfield

in The Rhetoric of Terror

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780823231232
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823241118 | DOI:
. The Gigantic

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)


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The co-implication of aesthetic and tele-techno-mediatic problems and practices becomes visible as the twin (and twinned) problem of the aesthetic rendering of catastrophe (“after Auschwitz to write poetry is barbaric”), on the one hand, and the technical recording of it (“Have you no human decency?”), on the other. Both are sensed to be at once necessary and violent, imperative and obscene activities. It was predictable that efforts to make art out of 9/11 would generate spasms of outrage. It was also predictable that, in the aftermath of the attacks, the quotes from European intellectual provocateurs that middle-highbrow American critics would most love to savor and hate would be aestheticizing tags: Karlheinz Stockhausen, widely quoted as saying that the attacks were “the greatest work of art that has ever been” or Jean Baudrillard, asserting that “the horror for the 4,000 [sic] victims of dying in those towers was inseparable from the horror of living in them.”

Keywords: aesthetic; catastrophe; 9/11; attacks; Karlheinz Stockhausen; Jean Baudrillard

Chapter.  1798 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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