Negotiating with Terrorists: Trauma, Terrorism, and Power in 9/11 Adolescent Novels

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


Literature and Languages

Date of Award

Spring 2023


History has proven that tragedies can be incomprehensible at the time they occur; it is through this incomprehensibility that they have the power to leave their mark on the literary world. However, it was not until the rise of trauma theory throughout the 1990s that scholars were presented with a new way to analyze novels that depict or reference traumatic events. Trauma theory opens the door for new research, particularly in adolescent fiction about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Due to the highly publicized event, adolescents could easily witness the horrors of the attack, but the rise of the sub-genre of adolescent 9/11 fiction after 2003 gave young readers a way to comprehend the incomprehensible. However, relatively little research about the emerging sub-genre exists. Terrorism is a force that subjects people to ongoing fear. It does not allow the characters found in 9-ll literature to negotiate power directly, which is how they are commonly known to successfully navigate through the “coming of age” process. The protagonists in the ten novels I have chosen for this project must find a way to gain a level of power outside the traditional means. They accomplish this through helping others, which in turn allows them to accept that their reality now includes terrorism. This research will explore how protagonists must obtain power indirectly by helping others, which allows them to gain a level of power and accept that their reality now includes terrorism. It will utilize trauma theory and supplement with research on growth and power in adolescent fiction.


Karen Roggenkamp

Subject Categories

American Studies | Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature