The City after 9/11 (Proposed Edited Collection - 5/31/13)

full name / name of organization: 
Keith Wilhite / Siena College
contact email: 

Submissions are sought for a proposed collection of essays, tentatively titled The City after 9/11: Literature, Film, Culture. (A book proposal will be drafted based on successful submissions and sent to prospective presses in early fall 2013.)

Description and Aims of the Project:

In her recent work on violence, mourning, and general "conceptions of the human," Judith Butler writes, "There is something unrepresentable that we nevertheless seek to represent, and that paradox must be retained in the representation we give" (Precarious Life, 2006). Over the past decade, writers, filmmakers, and artists have encountered this essential paradox in various forms, attempting to depict the "unrepresentable" trauma of 9/11.

As the title of this proposed collection suggests, The City after 9/11 will focus on contemporary literature, film, and culture that address questions of representation as they relate to urbanism, cultural geography, or the political and social life of cities in the 21st century. More to the point, this collection aims to explore how the city provides a context for representation—a space in which to examine human trauma and vulnerability, but also in which to locate and investigate wide-ranging theoretical and political concerns: nationalism, globalism, and the "war on terror"; civil rights violations in both public and private spheres; the relationship between history and memory, between real and imagined geographies; rhetorics of urban decline and urban renewal; and the limits of language and collective identity.

In this way, The City after 9/11 hopes to build on previous scholarship focused on the city and urban literature in the modern era. In her influential study City Codes: Reading the Modern Urban Novel (1996), Hana Wirth-Nesher encourages us to read for the ways urban spaces provide "a potent counterforce to character . . . inseparable from the selves that populate these worlds." In Voices of Decline (2003), urban planning scholar Robert Beauregard suggests that, "as 'an abstract receptacle for displaced feelings about other things,' the city [has been] used rhetorically to frame the precariousness of human existence in a modern world." Echoing that idea in his account of "Marxist urbanists," Andy Merrifield contends that "it's in the city, above all, that we are compelled to face, with sober senses, our real conditions of life and our relations with our fellow humans" (Metromarxism, 2002).

The City after 9/11 invites interested scholars to bring this conversation about urban space, representation, and other humanistic concerns to post-9/11 literature and film. The collection welcomes essays that offer readings of how specific authors, texts, or films place the city before us as a compelling and dynamic object of inquiry, but also encourage broader theoretical inquiries that clarify the intertwined relationship between urban spaces and "the real conditions of life" in contemporary culture. Please note that inquiries need not be limited to New York City and, indeed, one goal of the collection should be to expand the context of this scholarly conversation by examining global cities in a global context.

Some chapters are in place, so feel free to email with inquiries to avoid duplicate proposals. Otherwise, please email 500-word proposals and a 150-200 word biography to Keith Wilhite ( by May 31, 2013.