Representing 9/11: Intermediality, Plurality and Temporality
Joe, Chung Hwan
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The September 11 attacks have been often referred to as an unprecedented historical event defining the twenty-first century. Live broadcasts of the event in real time have rendered 9/11 an unprecedented visual disaster that brought a collective trauma to Americans, but when placed in historical context, it is not an unprecedented event but rather situated in the trajectory of American history. Concern about retraumatization through the representation of 9/11 brought up the “too soon” dilemma, which caused artists to hesitate in portraying 9/11. Gradually, they began to portray 9/11 in various media forms, such as novels, films, and graphic narratives. Overvisualization has been a dilemma for artists in representing 9/11 because they can’t represent 9/11 fully without visuals, but graphic images of 9/11 can retraumatize readers and audiences. Artists such as novelists, film directors, and cartoonists have tried to find alternative ways to represent 9/11 without re-traumatizing audiences. I examine the representation of 9/11 in terms of intermediality, plurality, and temporality. They have embedded the characteristics of different media into one medium to overcome the limitations of specific types of media—we can refer to this as intermediality. I investigate three different works: a film, The Guys (Jim Simpson, 2002), which depicts the process of writing eulogies through intertitles while drawing attention to sound and touch and de-emphasizing image; a novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Jonathan Safran Foer, 2005), which employs various visual elements, such as pictures, colors, and edited text, as pictorial material; and a graphic narrative, In the Shadow of No Towers (Art Spiegelman, 2004), which presents the creative possibilities of graphic narratives as a medium, embracing image and text along with frames and pages.