From Frontline to Homefront: The Global Homeland in Contemporary U.S. War Fiction

  • Datum: 06 maj, kl. 10.15
  • Plats: Geijerssalen, Humanistiskt centrum, Thunbergsvägen 3P, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Rau, Kristen
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Engelska institutionen
  • Kontaktperson: Rau, Kristen
  • Disputation


Criticized for providing a simplified depiction of a post-9/11 United States, contemporary American “War on Terror” fiction has been largely neglected by critical discourse. In this dissertation, I argue that this fiction offers a vital engagement with how the War on Terror is waged, and how the fantasies and policies of the Global Homeland inform it. Most immediately, the texts I analyze undercut the sanitization of the war by including depictions of intense combat and the psychological fallout of derealized warfare. In these works, the public’s reluctance to acknowledge such concerns lays the foundation for a schism between American civilians and the military. I argue moreover that this fiction engages with the collapse of distinctions between foreign and domestic spheres through exploring both battlefields abroad and how a military logic is transposed onto American society.

In the first chapter, I analyze the way in which narratives by Kevin Powers, David Abrams, Phil Klay, and Dan Fesperman complicate sanitized images of the war by foregrounding its visceral qualities and representing the traumatic impact of mediated warfare. The second chapter focuses on Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, specifically its representation of the military characters’ frustration with the public’s failure to acknowledge the traumatic impact of the War on Terror, and its critique of melodramatic patriotic gestures that glorify the war but do not require actual social, financial, or affective investment in the military. The third chapter zeroes in on portrayals of returned veterans in texts by George Saunders, Atticus Lish, and Joyce Carol Oates, who react with increasing antagonism to civilian disinterest in their plight, which gives rise to acts of violence against civilians and a shift in societal attitudes toward the military. I conclude by examining Lish’s depiction of how the policies of the Global Homeland result in the deployment of a military logic within the domestic U.S. Through its engagement with American warfare and the Global Homeland, contemporary American war fiction offers a nuanced exploration of the conduct and ramifications of the War on Terror.