Systems of safety: Representation, order and the chaos of terrorism in modern fiction.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractPoststructuralist literary theory has sought to question the foundations and assumptions concerning art and representation that have governed Western culture since the time of Plato. If something is not representable in language, in image, in sound, it supposedly does not exist. Thus non-representational concepts such as disorder, chaos and terror are codified, labelled, and controlled as threats to the system of representation. In order to maintain power, control, systems must repress the knowledge that the very foundation of their order (disorder, chaos, terror) are concepts at the very heart of the system itself. In effect, every system contains the elements of its own destruction, elements that are ironically empowered by the very attempt to repress their existence. Terrorism becomes a metaphor for the failure of systems such as history, philosophy, language, even civilization itself, to provide stable, absolute truths and meaning. In the history of Western metaphysics, terror, in its various manifestations, has always been a non-representable concept, both a threat to systems of order and a supposed vehicle for their change. The way that systems of power deal with the threat of terrorism has been a major subject for modern fiction; what follows is an investigation of the connections between what I call these "systems of safety," representation, terror, and modern fiction.