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The Aggregation of Political Rhetoric in Zeitoun

Keeble, Arin



While the initial literary and cultural response to 9/11 consisted mostly of domestic narratives of trauma and mourning that avoided explicit political discourse, narrative representations of Hurricane Katrina, from the beginning, have been highly political. This is a profound, if simplistic, inversion: an act of political violence is de-politicized by its cultural response, while a natural disaster is overtly politicized. While the politicization of Hurricane Katrina is clearly, in part, down to the many accusations of negligence and racism that were immediately leveled at the American government after the post-Katrina flooding of New Orleans, this article argues that a major politicizing factor is and was the de-politicization of 9/11. Many narratives of Hurricane Katrina, therefore, are loaded with an aggregation of dissent and political discourse that relates not just to Katrina but also to 9/11 and the War on Terror. This article focuses specifically on Dave Eggers’s narrative non-fiction account of Katrina, Zeitoun (2009) and the way it responds to the domestication of 9/11 in these early instances of 9/11 fiction, and, in particular Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006). It argues that Zeitoun responds to The Road’s conservative, messianic allegory, its retrograde formulation of frontier masculinity and unlikely recourse to the domestic. Eggers’s narrative non-fiction account of Katrina is also a migrant story and it is able to both dramatize the social realities of the War on Terror and build a surprising and affecting narrative of community and pluralism in the wake of disaster. Ultimately, this comparative analysis illuminates a wider and revealing departure from the cultural representation of 9/11 in the cultural response to Hurricane Katrina where texts like Zeitoun, are overtly political and loaded with the weight of two catastrophes.


Keeble, A. (2014). The Aggregation of Political Rhetoric in Zeitoun. Comparative American Studies, 12(3), 173-189.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 3, 2014
Online Publication Date Aug 19, 2014
Publication Date Aug 13, 2014
Deposit Date Feb 24, 2017
Journal Comparative American Studies
Print ISSN 1477-5700
Electronic ISSN 1741-2676
Publisher Maney Publishing
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 3
Pages 173-189
Keywords Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, trauma, War on Terror, Dave Eggers, Cormac McCarthy, racism, Islam
Public URL