LIT287 : Terrorism and Modern Literature

Convenor(s): Dr Alex Houen


Please note: This module may or may not run in any given semester. Please check with the tutor.

General Information

'What terrorists gain, novelists lose. The degree to which they influence mass consciousness is the extent of [novelists'] decline as shapers of sensibility' (Don DeLillo, Mao II).

After the September 11 attacks, a number of writers voiced their dismay as to what literature could do and say in response to such events. Yet the literary engagement with terrorism goes back a long way. In this module, we’ll be looking at a range of responses to terrorists and terrorism starting with the late Victorian period and ending with the recent terrorist attacks of 11 Sept 2001 in NYC and those of 11 July 2005 in London. The aim is to examine the diversity of responses. Topics will include: Joseph Conrad on Victorian anarchism; George Orwell on state terror; Don DeLillo on postmodernism and hostage taking; Seamus Heaney on the 'Troubles'; in Northern Ireland; ‘suicide bombers’; and recent fictions and poetry responding to the September 11 attacks. We'll also be exploring more general literary questions: how have modern writers engaged with politics and violence; can violence be a form of communication itself? Questioning the literary texts in relation to historical contexts is specifically intended to consolidate research skills needed for your other core (period) modules.


Teaching will consist of two one-hour seminars per week. The first will consist of a minilecture and/or group-work. The second will be focused on close-reading of the text, building on discussions from the first seminar.


Assessment deadlines will be issued at the start of the semester.

Contact Details

Dr Alex Houen, tel: +44 (0)114-222-8476

Information last changed: Thursday 07th of April 2016 :: 01:16:22 PM (BST)


The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK