McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
discourse, fiction, Iraq War, military, narrative, Vietnam War
This project examines American-authored Iraq War fiction within the context of public discourse. Given that modern, industrialized warfare is as much created by and through official-media discourse as represented by it, fictional accounts of Iraq exist not outside or separate from this discourse but rather in a dynamic, continually evolving relationship with it. The three texts explored in this study—Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Half Time Walk (2012), David Abrams’ Fobbit (2012), and Phil Klay’s Redeployment (2014)—thus do more than merely represent the war experience: operating always in conversation with how the war has been constructed, the novels and stories challenge what has and has not been made visible by those in power and how it has been rendered visible or invisible. At the same time, the texts perform a crucial intervention into the communication context, inhibiting the “discursive closure” (to quote Stanley Deetz) threatened by the unchecked perpetuation of prominent Iraq War narratives. At times directly and at others obliquely, the fictional narratives engage, interrogate, and critique official-media constructions of the Iraq War, thus challenging what has been accepted by the majority of American society as the reality of the conflict. By revising, repurposing, and undermining the vocabulary, structure, tropes, and techniques of dominant Iraq War discourse, the novels and stories I address in the following chapters alter the discursive landscape as they interact with it. Ultimately, these texts not only lay bare the construction of war-as-narrative but also make plain the lie that is the tidy, official version of the Iraq War, and their adaptations, both direct and indirect, of Vietnam War discourse suggest the contingent nature of all war narratives and the potential of fiction to serve as a positive intervening force in the cultural and political realities of the contemporary moment.
Kunsa, A. (2017). Reconstructing the War in Iraq: Post-9/11 American War Fiction in Dialogue with Official-Media Discourse (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/134