Burden of valour: the hero and the terrorist-villain in post- 9/11 popular fiction
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/12/2100
My research is a literary study which primarily examines previously unstudied best-selling action-thriller fiction primary material from the US, Britain and Russia (published in the decade following the 11 September 2001 attacks) in the contexts of hegemonic masculinity and Self and Other stereotyping. I analyse thirteen works by the following popular fiction authors: Vince Flynn, Daniel Silva, Nelson DeMille, Frederick Forsyth and Danil Koretskiy. Drawing on masculinity studies and archetypal psychology, I formulate the model of the archetypal hero – a character type which the above authors‘ works capitalise on. I trace the employment of this model in these primary works within the framework of constructing a positive and heroic image of the Self, of which the action-thriller hero is the chief representative. The archetypal hero‘s principal traits include courage, honour, individualism and just violence among others. Heroes such as Mitch Rapp, Gabriel Allon, John Corey, Mike Martin, Max Kardanov and Alexei Mal‘tsev embody this archetypal model and confirm it as positive and dominant in their respective narratives. The authors also utilise a variety of framing strategies to enhance their heroes‘ authoritativeness and characterisation. Among these strategies, the use of historical facts and figures to anchor the narrative, enemy acknowledgement of the hero‘s qualities and female characters‘ fulfilment of traditional gender roles are the most prominent. First-person narration also plays a role in enhancing authenticity, such as in DeMille‘s novels. While the heroes and the side they represent are characterised as inherently positive and superior, their terrorist antagonists fulfil the role of the essentialised and diametrically opposite Other. I demonstrate through further analysis how these characters are positioned as archetypal terrorists, embodying traits which are antithetical to the hero‘s: backwardness; hatred of modernity and ‗civilisation‘; religion (Islam) as their source of hatred; desire for arbitrary revenge and unjustified violence; hypocrisy and disloyalty. Having analysed the main archetypal heroes and villains in the primary action-thriller works, I proceed to examine two mainstream literary authors: American John Updike and Algerian Francophone Yasmina Khadra. I study those of their novels which foreground terrorist characters instead of archetypal heroes, thus analysing one novel by Updike (Terrorist) and two by Khadra (Les Sirènes de Bagdad and L’Attentat). I find that, despite an increased focus on the character of the budding teenage suicide bomber from New Jersey, Updike‘s characterisation follows a pattern similar to the archetypal terrorist in the action-thriller sources. On the other hand, Khadra achieves a more balanced and complex portrayal, presenting his terrorists as human beings motivated by their various personal, social and political grievances rather than blind religious hatred. In sum, only Khadra‘s narratives transcend stereotypical views of terrorism, while the other post-9/11 primary works (including Updike) focus on perpetuating binary oppositions of the Self and Other, masculinity and emasculation. My original contribution to knowledge is the identification, definition and comparative textual analysis of archetypal hero and terrorist characters in post-9/11 action-thriller and mainstream fiction in three languages (English, Russian and French) within a framework combining several elements: aspects of the system of representation of the terrorist Other, masculinity studies and archetypal psychology as well as the context of political and media post-9/11 views of Arabs and/or Muslims in the US, Britain and Russia.