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Life on the Wire

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0041741/00001

Material Information

Title: Life on the Wire Post-9/11 Mourning and the Figure of the Tightrope Walker
Physical Description: 1 online resource (40 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Murphy, Emily
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: gerstein, marsh, mccann, mourning, petit, september, trauma
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: English thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: On August 7, 1974, a tightrope walker named Philippe Petit walked between the buildings of the World Trade Center. His act was immediately given world-wide praise, turning Petit into a local celebrity. As the years passed, however, the memory of Petit's extraordinary feat began to fade. Not until the tragic event of 9/11 did the memory of Petit's walk between the Twin Towers regain popular attention. Beginning in 2001, the story of this amazing feat has been incorporated into a number of post-9/11 texts. Most notably are the following: Philippe Petit's To Reach the Clouds, Mordicai Gerstein's The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, James Marsh's Man on Wire, and Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin. The continued use of the story of the 'man who walked between the towers' raises questions about the role of the figure of the tightrope walker in post-9/11 mourning. My thesis is that this story has captured the attention of the American public for more deep-seated reasons than the mere fact that it involves the Twin Towers before their destruction. To that end, I conduct a close analysis of the representation of Petit's '74 Twin Tower walk in each of the four previously mentioned texts. Based on these analyses, I explore the use and incorporation of historical and traditional literary representations of the tightrope walker and the role of these elements in the mourning process. More specifically, I focus on the connections of the tightrope walker to the sublime, fin de sie gravecle, utopia, and the Romantic child, locating these as possible resistances to the mourning process and signs of nostalgia for a pre-9/11 symbolic order. My conclusion is that, despite these resistances, the use of the tightrope walker in post-9/11 literature opens up space for a productive working through of the trauma of 9/11.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Emily Murphy.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Wegner, Phillip E.
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO UF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE UNTIL 2011-04-30

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0041741:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0041741/00001

Material Information

Title: Life on the Wire Post-9/11 Mourning and the Figure of the Tightrope Walker
Physical Description: 1 online resource (40 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Murphy, Emily
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: gerstein, marsh, mccann, mourning, petit, september, trauma
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: English thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: On August 7, 1974, a tightrope walker named Philippe Petit walked between the buildings of the World Trade Center. His act was immediately given world-wide praise, turning Petit into a local celebrity. As the years passed, however, the memory of Petit's extraordinary feat began to fade. Not until the tragic event of 9/11 did the memory of Petit's walk between the Twin Towers regain popular attention. Beginning in 2001, the story of this amazing feat has been incorporated into a number of post-9/11 texts. Most notably are the following: Philippe Petit's To Reach the Clouds, Mordicai Gerstein's The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, James Marsh's Man on Wire, and Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin. The continued use of the story of the 'man who walked between the towers' raises questions about the role of the figure of the tightrope walker in post-9/11 mourning. My thesis is that this story has captured the attention of the American public for more deep-seated reasons than the mere fact that it involves the Twin Towers before their destruction. To that end, I conduct a close analysis of the representation of Petit's '74 Twin Tower walk in each of the four previously mentioned texts. Based on these analyses, I explore the use and incorporation of historical and traditional literary representations of the tightrope walker and the role of these elements in the mourning process. More specifically, I focus on the connections of the tightrope walker to the sublime, fin de sie gravecle, utopia, and the Romantic child, locating these as possible resistances to the mourning process and signs of nostalgia for a pre-9/11 symbolic order. My conclusion is that, despite these resistances, the use of the tightrope walker in post-9/11 literature opens up space for a productive working through of the trauma of 9/11.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Emily Murphy.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Wegner, Phillip E.
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO UF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE UNTIL 2011-04-30

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0041741:00001


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1 LIFE ON THE WIRE: POST -9/11 MOURNING AND THE FIGURE OF THE TIGHTROPE WALKER By EMILY A. MURPHY A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGR EE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2010

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2 2010 Emily A. Murphy

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3 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Upon embarking on the journey that has culminated in my masters thesis, my advisor told me that All ideas are born prematurely. The end result that wi ll subsequently be preserved in the University of Floridas library system is no exception. It is, indeed, premature. Despite this, the ideas presented here have developed far beyond my expectations. I owe the development of these ideas to several people. First off, my committee members, Dr. Phillip Wegner and Dr. Anastasia Ulanowicz, provided the intellectual support that allowed my ideas to grow. They steered me in directions I may not have pursued on my own, and forced me to go beyond what I felt were m y limits (both intellectually and in terms of writing). Second, I owe a great amount of gratitude to my family and friends. The network of support provided by these people gave me the emotional stamina to get through even the hardest of times when working on this paper. I want to provide a special thanks to Dr. Anastasia Ulanowicz, who has inspired and supported me from the very beginning of my studies in English as an undergraduate at the University of Florida. Her unending encouragement and support has h elped shape me into the scholar I am today. I also want to give a special acknowledgement to my mother, who has truly been there from the very beginning. She has always taught me to chase my dreams, and for that I am thankful. I find myself pursuing things that truly inspire me on a daily basis, and this can only be credited to her love and support throughout my life.

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4 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ...................................................................................................... 3 ABSTRACT .......................................................................................................................... 5 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................... 7 2 THE TIGHTROPE WALKER AND POST -9/11 MOURNING .................................... 10 3 ANAL YSIS OF THE WALK SCENE ........................................................................ 14 4 THE CHILD AND THE FIGURE OF THE TIGHTROPE WALKER ........................... 31 5 CONCLUSION ............................................................................................................ 34 WORKS CITED ................................................................................................................. 38 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................................................................................ 40

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5 Abs tract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts LIFE ON THE WIRE: POST -9/11 MOURNING AND THE FIGURE OF THE TIGHTROPE WALKER By Emily A. Murphy May 2010 Chair: Phil l ip Wegner Major: English On August 7, 1974, a tightrope walker named Philippe Petit walked between the buildings of the World Trade Center. His act was immediately given worldwide praise, turning Petit into a local celebrity As the year s passed, however, the memory of Petits extraordinary feat began to fade. Not until the tragic event of 9/11 did the memory of Petits walk between the Twin Towers regain popular attention. Beginning in 2001, the story of this amazing f eat has been incorporated in to a number of post 9/11 texts. Most notably are the following: Philippe Petits To Reach the Clouds Mordicai Gersteins The Man Who Walked Between the Towers James Marshs Man on Wire, and Colum McCanns Let the Great World S pin The continued use of the story of the man who walked between the towers raises questions about the role of the figure of the tightrope walker in post -9/11 mourning. My thesis is that this story has captured the attention of the American public for more deep-seated reasons than the mere fact that it involves the Twin Towers before their destruction. To that end, I conduct a close analysis of the representation of Petits 74 Twin Tower walk in each of the four previousl y mentioned texts. Based on th ese analyses, I explore the use and incorporation of historical and traditional literary

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6 representations of the tightrope walker and the role of these elements in the mourning process. More specifically, I focus on the connections of the tightrope walker t o the sublime, fin de sicle utopia, and the Romantic child, locating these as possible resistances to the mourning process and signs of nostalgia for a pre 9/11 symbolic order. My conclusion is that, despite these resistances, the use of the tightrope walker in post 9/11 literature opens up space for a productive working through of the trauma of 9/11.

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7 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION When most people remember the Twin Towers it is in relation to the infamous day when they fell on September 11, 2001. Yet more t han 30 years earlier the towers received extensive coverage for a far different reason: a tightrope walker named Philippe Petit walked between them. Early on a Wednesday morning New Yorkers were amazed to look up and find a man suspended high up in the sky For nearly 45 minutes Petit dazzled the small crowd that gathered below by performing stunts such as the wirewalkers knee salute. When he got off his wire he was quickly arrested. The performance was, after all, illegal, since it involved Petit breakin g into a business facility after hours. However, this only seemed to increase public interest in Petits walk, and he quickly became a local celebrity. While it seemed as if Petits walk was destined to become a story shared only by the few who witnessed i t in 1974, the tragedy of 9/11 re ignited public fascination with this extraordinary tale. The connection between these two events was made by Petit himself, who was working on his memoir To Reach the Clouds (2002) at the time of the terrorist attacks. He quickly finished the book in time for the one year anniversary of 9/11 and dedicated it to the victims [of 9/11] and to their families (237). Since the pu blication of Petits memoir, this story has been retold by several authors who wanted to memorializ e the towers without reinvoking the image of them falling, an image that the media played ad nauseam in the days a fter 9/11. The attraction to th e story lies in what James Marsh, director of the documentary film Man on Wire (2008), describes as the antid ote quality of the story, which he claims provides a unique opportunity to inhabit the Towers again and in a sense rebuild them

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8 (qtd. in Abele). Marshs viewpoint also reflects the reason behind the rising public interest in this story. While Americans still recognize that it is necessary to remember 9/11, many are tired, even afraid, of encountering texts that force them to relive this tragic event. One viewer of the documentary film, for instance, praised the films ability to give them another memory of the towers that was not attached to 9/11 (qtd. in Abele). Others admitted that they were afraid to watch the film because they had it in their head that it was filled with death; but seeing that the film is about joythey are at peace (qtd. in Stein). What is evident from these responses is that Petits story is quickly becoming one of the popular ways to remember 9/11. As such, it is important to consider what exactly makes these texts ideal for post -9 /11 mourning. While part of the success of th ese post 9/11 texts is attributed to the fact that they avoid any direct mention of 9/11 but still allows readers/viewers to remember and mourn this tragic event, it seems as if the image of Petit walking between the towers is the real strength behind thes e stories. In fact, the figure of the tightrope walker a figure to which Petits image is undeniably connected has a long history in literature and culture, and incorporates elements of the sublime, fin de sicle, and utopia. The most recent literary usag e of the figure of the tightrope walker in texts that pre date 9/11 is in childrens literature. Childrens picture books reveal a connection between the figure of the tightrope walker and Romantic notions of childhood, and suggest that Petits story might be attractive because it reappropriates the image of the vulnerable and innocent child. Many Americans felt like the vulnerable and innocent1 child in the aftermath of 9/11; but rather than dealing with these emotions resorted to

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9 paranoiac acting out ( Welcome to the Desert 49). Besides the obvious fear of another attack, I argue that this vulnerability resulted from a shift in the American symbolic order, and that the figure of the tightrope walker serves as a means of addressing the anxiety caused by t his subjective split. Post 9/11 texts that incorporate the story of Philippe Petits 1974 walk are rife with resistances to the effects of 9/11; but they also open up spaces for productive mourning. Viewed separately, these texts appear to fail in their ef forts to mourn 9/11; but seen as a larger collective project to mourn, they begin to function as a productive working through of this loss.2

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10 CHAPTER 2 THE TIGHTROPE WALKER AND POST -9/11 MOURNING The major texts that are a part of this collective effort are Philippe Petits memoir To Reach the Clouds (2001), Mordicai Gersteins picture book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (2003), James Marshs documentary film Man on Wire (2008), and Colum McCanns novel Let the Great World Spin (2009).3 These texts can be viewed as a series, since each one draws on the other as a way of continuing the mourning process. Beyond the shared storyline, images and even lines of text from Petits To Reach the Clouds are repeated in the later texts. For instance, Mordicai Gerstein received an advanced copy of To Reach the Clouds while working on his own book. Gerstein has noted the usefulness of the text in his own work, whose images he claims were invaluable for making my pictures (Caldecott Award Speech). A close comp arison of Gersteins water -color rendition of Petits walk does, indeed, reveal the closeness of certain images to the original text, such as one where Petit lies down on his back while on the highwire. Similarly, James Marshs documentary film uses image s taken directly from Petits text;4 and Colum McCann has taken small facts from the original text as a starting point for some of his fictional stories.5 This return to the original, however, is not the only thing that binds these very different texts t ogether. Each text is marked by a very personal response to the trauma of 9/11. For instance, Petit, who was working on the manuscript of To Reach the Clouds before 9/11, reveals the way that the event shaped the writing of his text. Petit describes his reaction to 9/11 as follows: Suddenly, I stopped writing. My towers were under attack, then destroyed, taking an immense number of lives down with them. Then my cathedral was on fire. Doom. Tempest. Chaos. Reflection. After a while, with rebellion in

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11 my blo od, I wrote, As an artist, my mission is to create, and went back to writing (234). Here, Petit recognizes the tragedies that punctuated the writing of his text: 9/11 and the partial destruction of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where Petit is an artist in residence. He continues to describe the loss of his daughter, Gypsy, who died at the age of 9 from a brain injury. Petits text does not escape the markings of these three traumas, and it is clear throughout the text that he is striving to work through these traumatic moments from his life. While each of these traumas serves as important influences in To Reach the Clouds, I will focus specifically on the trauma of 9/11, since this is what binds these different texts together. What is important t o keep in mind, however, is the way that the personal trauma of these writers is intertwined with the collective trauma of 9/11. For instance, Gerstein has claimed that this book served as his own personal response to 9/11. Gerstein has noted that he is a former NYC resident, and that he experienced the shock of 9/11 in a way similar to any other New York resident. Marsh makes similar claims in a Los Angeles Times article, exclaiming, I know the power of the subtext of the film. I experienced it myself. I live in New York and witnessed the destruction with my own eyes. (qtd. in Abele). Finally, McCann attributes the formation of his idea for Let the Great World Spin to his father in law, who returned ashridden to McCanns home after barely escaping from t he 59th floor of the World Trade Center. McCann further explains the reaction of his daughter, who at first cries that her grandfather is burning, and when McCann tries to console her clarifies No, no, hes burning from the inside out (Let the Great W orld Spin Q & A). McCann explains that this incident was a

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12 pivotal moment for him, and he used this experience as a starting point for considering the way that different people of the city might have experienced the tragedy of 9/11. While each authors t ext was shaped by their own personal reaction to 9/11, their texts have come to serve as important components in a collective effort to mourn 9/11. As Sigmund Freud noted in Mourning and Melancholia, time is the essential component of mourning; only with time can the subject succeed in freeing its libido from the lost object (589). The story of Petits walk between the towers has become one of the ways of working towards this ultimate goal: Each of these post 9/11 texts shows a deep effort to work through the trauma caused by 9/11. As can be expected, the texts with a later publication date contain a more thoughtful response to 9/11, since their authors have had time to move beyond the immediate shock of the event. This is most evident in the different n arrative techniques incorporated in each text, specifically in the way the narrative focuses on Petit. In To Reach the Clouds, the presence of Petit is excessive; his control of the story and its meaning, his constant presence, is almost suffocating. In Gersteins picture book on the other hand, while Petit remains the central figure of the story, the narrator provides some distance from this excessive, eccentric figure. We begin to see the story from different perspectives (above and below) rather than sim ply from a single, narrow vision. Marsh expands these views in his documentary film. The film, with clever uses of montage, divides the narrative text into several pieces, placing multiple perspectives (both verbal and visual) in the film. The text begins to present new understandings of historical trauma as a collective process by allowing previously silenced voices to speak. Each person, as with the characters in 9/11 novels such as Jonathan Safran

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13 Foers Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Don DeLill os Falling Man must locate themselves in the others narrative, thus creating a more complete picture of the event (recall, for example, Keiths intimate relationship with Florence in Falling Man, where they must continually locate each other in their sto ries of exiting the World Trade Center after the building was hit). Finally, the tightrope walker becomes almost completely removed in Let the Great World Spin, and only functions as a thread pulling together six otherwise disparate stories. Each time the tightrope walker is mentioned (who remains unnamed for most of the story), the characters are brought closer together. The focus shifts completely from above to below, and the tightrope walker drifts entirely into a figural function. By taking a closer look at the walk scene in each text, which serves as a sort of climax in them,6 it is easy to see the way in which each text struggles to work through the trauma of 9/11.

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14 CHAPTER 3 ANALYSIS OF THE WAL K SCENE These representations of Petits walk can be broken up into two critical moments: the first step and the actual walk itself. The first step, where Petit must make his decision to walk onto the wire, is one of the tensest moments in all of these texts, whereas the walk scene serves as a moment of rel ease for all of these tensions. The description of the first step on the wire is the pivotal moment where the void is approached. In these post -9/11 texts, this void becomes the terrifying Real, symbolizing both the loss of the towers and the many deaths t hat occurred on 9/11. Staging an approach to this void thus repeats traumatic aspects of 9/11, allowing readers to continue working through these moments. Changes in the description of the first step show a steady approach to the void, and reflect the time for the understanding crucial to the mourning process. In To Reach the Clouds the moments preceding the first step are intensified by highlightin g the dangers to which Petit subm its himself, as well as focusing on Petit to the extent that literally nothi ng else seems to exist. This focusing technique is used at the beginning of the passage, where Petit writes: All of a sudden, the density of the air is no longer the same. Jean-Franois ceases to exist. The facing tower is empty. The wheel of the elevator no longer turns. The horizon is suspended from east to west. New York no longer spreads its infinity. The murmur of the city dissolves into a squall whose chill and power I no longer feel. (178) Like a close up shot in a film, Petits narrative blocks out any other information from the scene. Readers are only capable of relating to Petit and his experience of the walk. The effect is titillating, as it pulls the reader into the experience of the first step, intensifying the tension that is built before th e moment of the walk itself.

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15 Petit continues by describing in extreme detail the moments before his walk. The wire, for instance, is Ready to explode. To dissolve (179), while the towers are tens of thousands, of tons of concrete, glass, steel, and thr eat. A gaping mouth 110 stories deep, more than 435 yards tall (179). Death, which always seems close for Petit, is made even more present through these descriptions. Petit makes it clear that he risks his life by crossing his wire; and in this way he overcomes the fear of death. He writes: I still belong to the material world (178). In this line, Petit makes it clear that in walking the wire he not only overcomes the fear of death, but that he will be fundamentally changed. Petits prose creates a layer ing effect, where symbolic meaning is imbued in every sentence, each reflecting on the tragedy of 9/11. His focus on his potential death, the wire that is ready to explode, the threat of the void that waits to swallow him each of these serve as reminders of traumatic aspects of 9/11. The strong emphasis on death in this scene seems to be an effort to work through the complex emotions attached to Petits traumatic experience of 9/11. In crossing the void, Petit must literally face death; but the crossing a lso becomes symbolic of a confrontation with traumatic moments from 9/11, as is indicated from Petits description of his approach to the void. While Petit emphasizes the peril that he willingly undergoes, later texts dare to approach the void in an even more intimate way In The Man Who Walked Between the Towers for instance, there are two illustrations depicting this moment. In the first, Petit is shown standing with his legs spread apart, yet firmly planted on the edge of the building. The point of view is from behind, so that readers see the image from the same perspective as the wirewalker; but the view is also, importantly, placed slightly above Petit. In doing this, Gerstein gives readers a point of view that allows them to both look

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16 across to the o ther tower and to see down. The crossing of these two different perspectives creates the vertigo effects that have been identified in his text by scholars (Connolly), and that Gerstein has claimed were intentional (Mehegan). The second image is a close-u p of Petits foot on the wire (the first step), and this time the point of view is from above, so that readers are forced to look all the way down to the city below. The illustration is small in comparison to the previous image, a mere 6 by 4.5 versus the earlier 8 by 6. The size of the image draws attention to the white space that surrounds the illustration, and can be viewed as yet another encounter with the void.7 Later efforts to recreate the walk scene become even more dramatic. In Marshs docume ntary there is a similar emphasis, as in the original, of the possibility that Petit might fall and die. However, the difference is that here concerns are expressed by Petits friends. The critical moment in this scene is again where the void is confronted In a shot similar to Gersteins illustration of the city below, Marsh intensifies the feeling of vertigo that is so present in Gersteins text. The shot is a black and white image of the city below, which is clearly intended to be the perspective of Peti t. We can tell this because this time, unlike in Gersteins illustrations, the viewer sees only the wire and a steel beam from the edge of the tower. This shot is meant to recreate what Petit might have seen when he looked down from the edge of the building before taking his first step. If this were not enough, the camera rocks back and forth and then immediately cuts to Petit who says, This is probablyI dont knowprobably the end of my life. This cut creates an interesting effect because while we know that Petit did not die, the emphasis on death remains prevalent. Moreover, the shot allows viewers to experience

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17 this fear firsthand through the images, although this experience is still somewhat mediated by the screen. The representation of the void, wh ile differing slightly in each of these first three texts we can almost view them as a sequence of shots, each drawing us closer to the void between the towers are all images viewed from above. Not a single one of these texts attempts to depict the walk fr om any other perspective than Petits in their descriptions of Petits first steps onto the wire. While there are interesting takes on the First step sceneMan on Wire is a case in point there is never a moment where the first step is being shown that incorporates a viewpoint from someone else. Even Marsh, who includes friends who helped Petit plan and rig the wire between the towers only edits in interviews with these people, which offers different emotional perspectives on the walk, but not any other v isual perspectives. While the progression in the description of this moment indicates that distance from the event has, indeed, brought about increased understanding, even if this only means that it is finally possible to examine more closely what occurred on 9/11, there is still a strict focus on the tightrope walker in these texts. Certainly this is, in part, due to the fact that Petit remains the central figure of the story. A look at the opening passage of Let the Great World Spin provides some insight into other ways of imagining this moment in Petits story, including the value of such reinterpretations for mourning. Unlike the other texts that re-tell Petits story, Let the Great World Spin does not tell the story of the Twin Tower walk from Petits perspective. In the opening scene readers are again confronted with Petits notorious first steps on the wire. The difference is that the scen e is narrated from below, amongst the group of

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18 New Yorkers who watched Petit from the street. The book works to capture the feelings of these previously unnamed participants in this historical event. The shift in perspective is striking. The experience of the people who crowded around the Twin Towers to watch Petit uncannily repeats several emotions that one might imagine New Yorkers felt on 9/11. McCann carefully chooses his words to strengthen the resonances of this past historical moment with 9/11, as in the following passage: But the longer they [the crowd] watched, the surer they were. He stood at the very edge o f the building, shaped dark against the gray of the morning. A window washer maybe. Or a construction worker. Or a jumper (3; my emphasis). Even in these first few lines, McCann reminds readers of the many people who lost their lives jumping from World Tr ade Center buildings; he even uses the language of journalists who would later name these people jumpers. McCann emphasizes the uncertainty of those watching below. The crowd looks up at Petit, unsure of who he is or what he is doing. On an otherwise normal day, they wait. The narrator of the scene describes the crowds dilemma in the following way: They didnt want to wait around for nothing at all, some idiot standing on the precipice of the towers, but they didnt want to miss the moment either, if he slipped, or got arrested, or dove, arms stretched (3). The tension in the scene crescendo e s not from a near fall or any other type of anticipated action but from the everyday details of the city streets. The passage is filled with lists of details of sights and sounds that surround the watchers: Car horns. Garbage trucks. Ferry whistles. The thrum of the subway. The M22 bus pulled in against the sidewalk (4) Lists like these go on for several pages creating impatience in the reader that is similar to t hat of the crowd. By focusing on

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19 details other than Petit, who has not been named at this point, the reader is left even more curious about who he is and what is happening. With the arrival of the police, the narrator returns to the watchers, who are now determining what it is exactly that they are observing. One man cries, Do it, asshole Whil e another shouts, Dont do it (7). McCann highlights the indecision on the part of crowd caused by their anxiety and their desir e to understand what is happening. Finally, in the last lines of the passage, the watchers come to understand: the man above them is a tightrope walker. Through the carefully laid out details in this scene, McCann captures the emotions of the watchers before they can register what it is t hat is occurring high above them. The scene seems aimed at recreating the tension and anxiety that those who watched the Twin Towers on 9/11 may have similarly felt. While the progression in understanding in these texts is evident, it is worth investigating further the purpose behind the repetition of Petits story. I have already pointed out that each authors text derived from their personal experience of 9/11, and in this sense are an effort to mourn both the material loss of the Twin Towers and those w ho died in them. But is this the only loss that these texts deal with? I suggest that this loss runs deeper, and is a reaction to traumas tendency to produce new subjects (Kaplan 1). This is an important point in order to understand the significance of the popular response to Petits story, in particular, why the tightrope walker has become a crucial figure for mourning 9/11. The purpose of the repetition in these texts is similar to the fort -da game of Little Hans as this incident in Freuds Beyond the Pleasure Principle is interpreted by Jacques Lacan. Lacan describes the function of the repetition automatism as a way of dealing with a split that occurs in the subject following a

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20 traumatic incident. He explains that the child does not toss the spool bac k and forth simply as a way of coming to terms with the absence of his mother as Freud initially argu ed. Instead, the spool represents a little piece of the child, or, as Lacan puts it, a small part of the subject (62). The boys actions are a way for him to account for the subjective splitting that occurs in him as a result of the mothers departure. This Spaltung is overcome by the alternating game fort -da []. It is aimed at what, essentially, is not there, qua represented for it is the game itself w hich is the Reprsentanz of the Vorstellung (63). In a similar way, 9/11 texts that focus on Petits walk use the figure of the tightrope walker as a way of working through the subjective split that occurs as a result of 9/11. Several signs in these text s indicate this inner change. In To Reach the Clouds Petit describes how walking on the wire means stepping away from a life he knows (178). In the documentary film adaptation Man on Wire, Petits friends describe how something changed on the day of the walk. This something is precisely what these texts are attempting to confront, and which goes beyond the loss of the Twin Towers. Equally, that something is what many tried to verbalize when claiming that Americans had lost their innocence. In each of these texts, Petit becomes the means for examining the effects of trauma on the inner self. His confrontation with the void is a way of approaching the traumatic Real of 9/11, while his precarious position on the wire represents the vulnerability of Ame ricans in the aftermath of 9/11. The wire literally represents the inner space between one symbolic order and another. In this way, the repetition of Petits walk works to represent a successful (and safe) transition from one symbolic order to another.

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21 Th e importance of this successful, albeit staged, symbolic crossing is that it addresses the fear inherent in a shift in subjectivity. Judith Butler ascribes this fear to the subjects passionate attachment to subjectivity. This need to attach (or reattac h) is what Butler calls stubborn attachment. The stubborn attachment is rooted in the subjects own passionate attachment to subjection ( Psychic Life 67), so that in order to continue this subjection the subject discovers modes of stubbornness by for ming sites for maintaining this att achment: If wretchedness, agony, and pain are sites or modes of stubbornness, ways of attaching to oneself, negatively articulated modes of reflexivity, then that is because they are given by regulatory regimes as the sit es available for attachment, and a subject will attach to pai n rather than not attach at all. (Psychic Life 61) The subjects fear of symbolic death is the source of this need to re attach to the lost order. Even though narration of Petits story has progressed, reflecting an increased understanding of the trauma of 9/11, there is still nostalgia inherent in each of these texts, a desire to return to a time when the Twin Towers still stood, something Petits story temporarily grants. This nostalgia for th e lost object (the Twin Towers) works to counteract the productive work of mourning in the first part of the walk scene (the first step), where the traumatic void is encountered. Viewed in tandem with Butlers notion of stubborn attachments, we can interpr et Petits walk as representative of a desire to return, to re attach to a lost symbolic order. The fact that Petit crosses safely over the void, and that he is able to walk back and forth between the towers (or symbolic orders), is indicative of this. A return to the scenes in each text where Petit actually completes his crossing makes this more apparent.

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22 As Petit crosses his wire in To Reach the Clouds he cries out You are life, my life. Say I, Carry it! Carry my life across (184). He refers to the large balancing pole he carries in his arms, which he calls an extension of his own body (184). On the first crossing, Petit dwells on his own frag ility and the dangers he faces: heavy wind s, vibrations in the wire, etc By his second crossing he triump hantly announces: My destiny no longer has me conquering the highest towers in the world, but rather the void they protect (193). As Petit continues to cross back and forth he proclaims: Im absolutely no longer afraid of the wire, it is getting shorter as I stroll back and forth (203). After making several more crossings back and forth across the wire, Petit achieves something else: he is no longer afraid of the void below him (194). The void, which threatens to swallow him should he fall, can be viewed as the opening up of the terrifying Real that accompanies a shift in a symbolic order. Consider, for a moment, the exampl e provided by Slavoj iek, where a man and a woman are riding in a car. They are told not to unroll the window of the car no matter what they see, but do so anyway when their car appears to hit a child. When they open the window they are surprised to see only a thick, white pulsating mist. When they raise the window again, the same scene returns. They again open the window and find the terrifying mist. The mist, as iek interprets it, is the Lacanian real ( Looking Awry 14). Like the couple in ieks exam ple, Petit confronts the empty space of the Real (the void); by making his first step onto the wire, he crosses the barrier between the material world (178) and the space that constitutes as the Real. His continued crossing back and forth between this th reshold similar to the fort-da game Little Hans plays with the wooden spool reduces the terrifying element of the Real. While it would be impossible to directly

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23 confront the Real in this way, this staged encounter still repeats important tr aumatic elements (death, loss of the towers, etc.) that assist in the process of mourning. Gersteins The Man Who Walked Between the Towers incorporates a similar description of Petits crossing. While readers consider the possibilities of Petit falling, the narrator assu ages these fears by declaring: He [Petit] was not afraid. He was alone and happy and free. The wire, in this case, represents a space of freedom, a happy utopia. The accompanying image is a large pull out page that increases the feeling of the distance between the two towers. The perspective is from above, so that readers look down on Petit. The angle of the perspective is set so that readers not only see the city below Petits feet, but also the wide expanse of the city that stretches across from him. The image captures the sublime aspect of the tightrope walkers act, making Petit look small, albeit stable and confident, in relation to the world that stretches below and beyond. The lines of the text emphasize Petits oneness with nature as he walks back and forth along the tightrope. When police come and demand that he stop his performance, Petit simply walks the other way and reflects Who would come and get him? Only when Petit is completely satisfied does he walk off the wire and allow the pol ice to take him into custody. The text, whose visual images continue to create the vertigo effect that has been noted by scholars (Connolly), shifts its focus during the walk scene to increase the readers feeling that Petit is safe, so that they may enjoy the act. Images shift to long frames that are cropped so close that they remove views of the surrounding city. In one full double-page image that does include another view of the city below, Petit is painted with a smile on his face. A large bird is placed as the focus of the image and draws attention away from the void below Petit. On the other side of the

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24 image, police are piled at the edge of the World Trade Center, flapping their arms and yelling out to Petit, who calmly takes in the beauty of passing birds. One officer has dropped his hat and is reaching out to catch it. In comparison to the clumsy, wild throng of police, Petit seems even more serene and in control of his body on the wire. All of these small details work to create feelings of the subli me and to characterize the wire as a utopian space of freedom and happiness. Marshs Man on Wire gives yet another evocation of the emotional bliss of crossing the wire; but this state is also able to be enjoyed by those watching. The crossing, which is accompanied by the musical composition Gymnopedie No. 1 by Erik Satie and performed by Pascal Rog, creates a tranquil feeling after Petits tense first steps onto the wire. Gymnopedie No. 1, significant for its designation as furniture music or ambient music, has been described as: lonesome and singularly expressive melodies [that] circle like falling autumn leaves; a monotonous, low bass line accompaniment, and against it softly dissonant chords in the middle register, constantly repeating the same i ambic rhythm -pattern. Together this creates an atmosphere of vague melancholy, of mysticism and exoticism. Perhaps there is also a finde sicle fee ling, even some salon nostalgia. (Hjer) Mysticism, exoticism, and fin de sicle8: these are just some of th e different characteristics that have been attributed to the tightrope walker, which allows the music to heighten emotions during the walk scene. Since the walk is comprised solely of photographs taken at the time of Petits walk, director James Marsh must rely on both sounds and editing techniques in order to capture the emotion evoked by the images. In addition to the musical selection, Marsh uses different camera techniques, such as pans and zooms in order to create a sense of depth and movement in the s till images. He then edits in interviews with Petit and his friends, who recount their emotions at the time

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25 of the walk. These reflections further capture the magnitude of the event. As Petits friend, Jim, describes the moment, Beyond anything you could ever imagine. It was just mind boggling. The awe of the event and the overwhelming largeness of the scale of the situation. Took my mind into a place where I really wasnt that concerned about him. It was just magical. It was just profound. While Petit ha s criticized Marsh for turning the focus of the story onto the different emotions of his friends, Marsh seems only to contribute to the sense of awe that surrounds Petits walk (Williams). McCanns Let the Great World Spin removes itself from its usual perspective and narrates the actual walk (this is different from the first steps that are narrated from the crowds perspective) from Petits perspective: It was so much like having sex with the wind. It complicated things and blew away and softly separated and slid back around him. The wire was about pain too: it would always be there, jutting into his feet, the weight of the bar, the dryness at his throat, the throb of his arms, but the joy was losing the pain so that it no longer mattered. So too with his breathing. He wanted his breath to enter the wire so that he was nothing. This sense of losing himself. Every nerve. Every cuticle. He hit it on the towers. The logic became unfixed. It was the point where there was no time. The wind was blowing and his body could have experienced it years in advance. (241; my emphasis) One major difference in McCanns description of Petits walk lies in the focus on the pain that accompanies the joy of the walk. If we continue to view the walk as an encounter with the Real then we might view this as acknowledgement of the pain involved in the process of working through a trauma. McCann does not idealize the walk to the point of losing sight of this pain. In doing so, McCann pushes his narrative as a means for working throu gh, and surpasses the other texts that appear to contrast the tense first step with the joyous act of the walk.

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26 There are a few ways to interpret these moments of emotional bliss on the wire. The first is to consider the sublime aspect of the walk. Philip Shaw has described the sublime as that which marks the limits and reason and expression together with a sense of what might lie beyond these limits (2). The sublime has often been thought in connection to nature: a powerful storm or the wide expanse of the ocean; it is the overwhelming feeling of smallness in relation to a powerful (natural) force. But nature is not the only place where the sublime can be encountered. Shaw recognizes the numerous applications of the sublime, noting that: A building or a mountain may be sublime, as may a thought, a heroic deed, or a mode of expression (1). Shaw has even made connections to 9/11 and the sublime claiming that 9/11 constitutes as a moment of the sublime because those who witnessed the destruction of the Twi n Towers experienced something of this power [the sublime] to astonish (2). The sublime aspects of Petits walk, as I have already intimated, are drawn out through descriptions of the enormity of the event, such as Petits oneness with nature and the w ay he conquers the towers (Petit 193). The tightrope walker has also been connected to the fin de sicle. Tightrope walkers have historically performed as a way of marking the importance of an event. Madame Saqui, a famous French funambulist of the 19th century, is said to have walked between the towers of Notre Dame as a way of celebrating the birth of Napoleons son (Demoriane 14). Her walks would mark other momentous occasions, such as successful campaigns of the Emperor. The practice of having a tightrope walker mark occasions such as these dates back several centuries and is said to have been a result of the tightrope walkers ability to endow an event with the necessary cosmic

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27 implications. For he is the destiny incarnate of those he honours (qtd. in Demoriane 80). Perhaps it is because the tightrope walker represents the watchers destiny that they have become perfect figures of the fin de sicle. The fin de sicle in France was primarily viewed as a time of decay, where morals where thrown to th e wind, and there were no more beliefs (Weber 10). Despite its original positive connotations, fin de sicle quickly came to signify the decreasing standards in morals, daily practices, and the arts (Weber 9). But the use of the term fin de sicle, espec ially when describing the mood of a society, differs dramatically depending on the time and geographical location (Laqueur 5). According to Walter Laqueur, In France it signified to be fashionable, modern, up -to date (5). At other times it signified s ymbolism, aestheticism, le art pour le art ; and yet other meanings incorporated its more negative connotations of frivolity and dejection, but not of total despair (5). While some have defined the fin de sicle as the despair caused by changes in societ y, including those caused by technological advances, Laqueur has argued that the focus on despair has been over emphasized (23). While despair is certainly one aspect of fin de sicle, there were equally feelings of hope in a new age that combate negative feelings of loneliness and insecurity and nostalgia for the past (23). Petit occupies the impossible concept of return to an age that has ended the fin de sicle nostalgia for the past (Laqueur 23) through his apparent innocence and constant belief t hat he can achieve his impossible dream and is reminiscent of classic American values. Finally, if we return to the language used to describe Petits walk we can see that each text constructs the space between the wire as a type of utopia. Petit, when on the

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28 wire, is described as both happy and free.9 But this freedom is contingent upon his remaining on the wire. The wide empty space of the wire, as McCann describes it in Let the Great World Spin, is a place where the wirewalker can lose himself com pletely a space of silence (240 241). When Petit is forced to leave his wire in McCanns fictional account he thinks he wanted to remain: he might never walker like this again (241; my emphasis). McCanns description repeats some of the sublime aspect s of the tightrope walkers act (i.e., the fact that the wirewalker can lose himself completely), but the moment where Petit must leave the wire suggests the utopian aspect of this space. Utopia, while described as an ideal society, is recognized as an impossible fantasy. Derived from the Greek term ou -topos utopia literally means no place. As Susan McManus has noted, the purpose of utopian fictions is to gain a knowledge that seeks to open spaces of alterity and critique; its alterity seeks to alter to intervene within the configuration of the present by revealing new and different possibilities, not to legitimate the world as it is already given, already known, already ordered (para. 3). Seen in this way, utopian fiction is a way of positively int ervening in history; these fictions imagine an ideal futurenot because such an ideal is expected to be achieved but because it casts doubt on the flaws inherent in society and encourages positive changes. The utopia portrayed in Petits walk defies this a spect of utopian narratives because it calls for a return to a prior happy moment of history, rather than envisioning a new future. Petits walk was the marker of a momentous historical occasion in and of itself: it occurred the day that President Nixon resigned. Newspapers that covered the event did not fail to make these connections.10 Hermine Demoriane, a friend of Petits and fellow

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29 wirewalker, writes in her diary: Philippes feat was beyond categorization: it was News. She [Demorianes mother] poin ted out that it happened to be the day Nixon resigned after Watergate. With Philippes taste for symbols, this wasnt mere coincidence (141). Performing in this transitional moment of history, Petit captures the fin de sicle attitude (the end of the Ni xon era), but his performance also signifies a hopeful new beginning. While such a theme could be productive in the post 9/11 mourning process, the use of the walk scene seems to perpetuate an unhealthy, melancholic attachment to the Twin Towers in certai n cases due to nostalgia for a pre-9/11 symbolic order (i.e., the time before Americas loss of innocence ). The most obvious of these instances is the end of Petits To Reach the Clouds where Petit writes: Let us rebuild the twin towers []. When the t owers again twin-tickle the clouds, I offer to walk again, to be the expression of the builders collective voice. Together, we will rejoice in an aerial song of victory. I will carry my life across the wire, as your life, as all our lives, past, present, and future the lives lost, the lives welcomed since. We can overcome. (239) Petits call to rebuild the towers perpetuates an unhealthy attachment to the Twin Towers that have come to signify all that was lost (e.g., innocence) after 9/11. It does not call to alter history, to intervene within the configuration of the present by revealing new and different possibilities, as McManus argues a utopian narrative should; instead, Petit asks his readers to join hands and work to rebuild the towers comeron, doveron, or as they were and where they were (239). This message of return was not received with the same enthusiasm in which it was given; both Gerstein and Marsh felt that the towers should simply be commemorated through memory, and their post 9/11 works reflect this feeling. But despite this difference of opinion, there are still elements of nostalgia in their works too. Gersteins The Man Who Walked Between the Towers for instance, has been criticized for its

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30 ending, which reads: But in memory, as if imprinted on the sky, the towers are still there. And part of that memory is the joyful morning, August 7, 1974, when Philippe Petit walked between them in the air. According to childrens literature scholar Paula Connolly, the ending of Gersteins book is like the restoration of an idyll to recast a troublesome present (292), and attempts to resolve the loss of 9/11 through the creative act of one man (293). The failure of the book lies in its lack of contextualization of 9/11: the story on ly tells readers that the towers are gone, but not why or how it happened (300). Moreover, Connolly argues that Gersteins narrative implicitly replaces the memory of 9/11 with that of Petits act, even though she does note that his story might also been seen as adding to the memory of the Twin Towers rather than directly replacing this memory (293). The elements of the sublime, fin de sicle and utopia all work together in the walk scene in these texts to produce a complex set of emotions that sometim es appear to aid in the mourning process, but, more often than not, represent a nostalgic attitude, a desire to return to a pre9/11 symbolic order.

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31 CHAPTER 4 THE CHILD AND THE FI GURE OF THE TIGHTROP E WALKER So what does the child have to do with this? Carolyn Steedman, whose work on the child-figure Mignon explores the ideas invested in this strange, deformed child acrobat from Goethes Wilhelm Meisters Apprenticeship, discusses the many ideas imbued in the figure of the child acrobat. The child, as Steedman has argued, came to represent human interiority during the midto late -Victorian era. According to Steedman, this period saw a rise in questions about the nature of existence. This was, in part, due to the early development of cellular theory. The discovery of the cell raised several questions about the nature of growth and its relation to life and death. For instance, scientists, such as W.B. Carpenter asked the question: Why did organic function continue, once a body or body part had attained the limits of its development? (64). However, the turn inside was not simply a physiological one. The development and expansion of psychoanalysis also directed attention to human interiority. With the sharp rise in questions about human interiori ty it seemed only natural for the Victorians to turn to the child for further investigation into the concept of growth. Indeed, as Steedman notes, Two important new markets for physiological information were parents of the middle and upper classes, and me dical students and practitioners. In popular child -care manuals, and in doctors guides, childhood was added to the list of associated terms: growth and death (63). Interest in the child under these terms built a cult of childwatching in a variety of l ocations, such as the theatre and the street. Most importantly for the figure of the tightrope walker was the attention given to child acrobats of the Victorian era. These children were watched with both a sense of pleasure and horror. The contorting of t he body surpassed what seemed natural for the

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32 human body and, indeed, it did. British investigators discovered that parents would force their children to perform painful exercises in order to make their bodies more supple (101102). The child acrobat thus raised questions about the nature of child development and of childhood itself; it was those questions that provoked the thrill of horror in the audience for Master and Man. As an aesthetic it was disconnected from the fin -de -siecle appreciation of the adult funambule (Steedman 110). Steedman claims that child acrobats differ from the tightrope walker because of the horror of the painful training exercises children had to go through in order to carry out their amazing performances, but a close inspection of the earlier Caldecott award winning picture book Mirette on the High Wire (1992) suggests that both the child and the adult funambulist have interesting connections that are of significance to post -9/11 texts that use Petits story as a way of working through the trauma of 9/11. Mirette on the High Wire is about a tightrope walker named Bellini and a child, Mirette, who becomes his protg. The books premise is that both the tightrope walker and the child do something to save one another: Bellini, th e tightrope walker, saves Mirette from a life of dull domestic duties, while Mirette saves Bellini by helping him conquer the fear he has developed of walking on the tightrope. In one of the most striking illustrations in the book, Mirette walks onto the t ightrope with her arms outstretched towards Bellini, while Bellini faces the girl while doing a knee salute. It seems as if the man is bowing down to the child, praising her for the gift of confidence with which she provides him. This illustration plays out the dependency that both characters have on each other, but places the child in a decidedly higher position than the tightrope walker. This privileging draws attention to the redemptive nature of the

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33 child in the book, and seems to be most obviously conn ected to Romantic notions of the child. As Jacqueline Rose discusses in her canonical text The Case of Peter Pan (1984), the child, as envisioned by Alan Garner and Jean Jacques Rousseau, had the responsibility of saving humankind from the degeneracy of m odern society and was set up as the site of a lost truth and/or moment in history, which it can therefore be used to retrieve (43). In the case of Mirette on the High Wire, Mirette is the Romantic child, who is able to save Bellini from the fear he has developed by reminding him of the joy he gets from walking on the wire. When an exasperated Bellini tells Mirette that he can no longer walk the wire because he is afraid, Mirette replies, But you must make it [your fear] leave! Only when Mirette meets B ellini on the wire in the middle of his performance does he completely lose his fear. Mirette thus serves as the means of return (to his former, fearless self) for Bellini. Childrens picture books like Mirette on the High Wire suggest that the figure of t he tightrope walker is actually deeply related to that of the child. While the tightrope walker in post -9/11 t exts is not actually a child, he carries the symbolic weight traditionally given to children in literature, i.e., as a redemptive figure. The Rom antic child, more specifically, functions as the tabula rasa and provides the opportunity to return to an earlier, purer state of humanity. It is the concept of return that makes the connection to the Child so significant for the figure of the tightrope w alker in a post 9/11 context. Readers of post 9/11 texts, such as Man on Wire and Let the Great World Spin, have reacted to these texts in a way that suggests that, rather than provide a means for moving forward (i.e., for working through their loss), they attempt to return their consumer to a previous state, albeit in memory only.

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34 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION Petits sheer determination to achieve his dream to walk between the Twin Towers recalls for his readers classic American values. One of the most memorable l ines from both To Reach the Clouds and Man on Wire occurs when Petit looks out from the top of the Twin Towers for the first time on a scouting trip and says, I know its impossible. But I know Ill do it (17). Petits upbeat attitude and unwillingness t o give up on his dream remains a constant point of focus in each text, overshadowing the moments in the story that resonate with 9/11. It seems to aim at proving that America still is great. After all, Petit came to America as a poor Frenchman and accompli shed one of the greatest feats the world has ever known. This back to [the] basics move has been criticized by iek, who describes this move as a missed opportunity ( Welcome to the Desert 47) what might be seen as a failure to understand. While eac h post 9/11 text that has used Petits story has shown a progression in the understanding of the event, the fact remains that elements of nostalgia remain tied to the image of Petits walk between the towers, and this is the most likely reason it has captured the American imagination. Those who have used his story recognize the fact that it is a way of bringing the towers back to life (Marsh), and public response supports this attitude, as I have already demonstrated. There is no denying that Petits stor y is a powerful one, which has the ability to create unique opportunities to confront and explore the lingering emotions stirred up by 9/11. But this work is not over. The continued progression in the post 9/11 texts, such as their more open and healthy ap proaches (e.g, multiple perspectives) to trauma, reveals the potential in Petits story as a way of working through the trauma of 9/11. McCanns novel Let the Great World

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35 Spin is a major leap forward in this respect. I have attempted to expose both the pos itive and negative attributes of the figure of the tightrope walker as a means of working through trauma. The use of this figure reveals both the troubling emotions leftover from 9/11 that still need attending and a continued resistance to this type of healthy working through. But it also shows great potential. While Philippe Petits role in the mourning process may still remain troubled and complex, it also has the ability to open up spaces and confront fears and emotions that might not be otherwise. So long as this is the case, I believe that the tightrope walker will continue to remain a prominent figure in post -9/11 texts.

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36 NOTES 1. Slavoj i ek has pointed out that this innocence is an American ideological category. According to i ek, this ideological category causes us to encounter the limits of moral reasoning: from the moral standpoint, the victims were innocent, the act was an abominable crime, this very innocence, however, is not innocent ( Welcome to the Desert 50). 2. Dominick LaCapra argues that it is impo rtant not to conflate absence with loss According to LaCapra, loss is specific and involve[s] particular events (49) ; and confusing loss for absence creates endless melancholia, impossible mourning, and interminable aporia in which any process of working through the past and its historical losses is foreclosed or prematurely aborted (46). 3. The warm reception of these texts are evident in the awards they have received: Gersteins The Man Who Walked Between the Towers won the 2004 C aldecott award, Marshs Man on Wire won the 2008 Oscar for Best Documentary, and, most recently, McCanns novel won the 2009 National Book Award for fiction. 4. The most important use of images in this work is the famous walk scene, which is comprised completely of photos from the original text this is due to the fact that no film footage of Petits walk was taken. 5. The most noteworthy is the story about the prostitutes Jazzlyn and Tillie. In Let the Great World Spin Petit is in the courtroom when these two characters are being tried for prostitution. In his own work, Petit does describe coming into the courtroom while a couple of prostitutes are still be judged. 6. In every text except for McCanns the walk scene actually is the climax of the stor y. McCanns displacement of this scene is crucial to his own project to explore the emotions of the unheard voices of 9/11. 7. Don Ault has argued in Imagetextuality: Cutting Up Again, pt. III that the gutter in comics can be viewed as the Lacanian Re al (para. 3) 8. The tightrope walkers performance has historically been used to mark the importance of a speci al occasion, adding the proper air of mysticism to an event ( Demoriane 80). Moreover, tightrope walkers would often dress as foreigners and change their names in order to attract larger audiences. 9. In his book Imaginary Communities Phillip Wegner maps the antinomy happiness/freedom on the Greimasian rectangle. According to Wegner, the upper position of this rectangle is that of the complex r esolution, the negation of the negation, or the impossible synthesis of the positive opposition of happiness and freedom (167). The representation of Petit on the wire seeks to achieve this complex resolution that Wegner describes. Petit therefore occ upies the impossible top position in the Greimasian rectangle.

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37 10. In Man on Wire the opening scene shows Petits crew in readying themselves while the television in the house shows Nixon giving is resignation speech.

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38 WORKS CITED Abele, Robert. Wire walks a fine line. Los Angeles Times Los Angeles Times, 8 Aug. 2008. Web. 6 Jun. 2009. < http://articles.latimes.com/2008/aug/08/entertainment/et petit8> Ault, Don. Imagetextuality: Cutting Up Again, pt. III. ImageText 1.1 (2004): n. pag. Web. 20 February 2010. < http://www.english.ufl.edu/imagetext/archives/v1_1/ault/ > Butler, Judith. The Psychic Life of Power Stanford: Stanford UP 1997. Print. Connolly, Paula. Retelling 9/11: How Picture Books Reinvision National Crises. The Lion and the Unicorn. 32.3 (2008): 288-303. JSTOR Web. 20 Oct. 2009. DeLillo, Don. Falling Man: A Novel New York: Scribner, 2007. Print. Demo riane, Hermine. The Tightrope Walker London: Secker & Warburg, 1989. Print. Freud, Sigmund. Mourning and Melancholia. The Freud Reader Ed. Peter Gay. New York and London: W.W. Norton, 1989. Print. Gerstein, Mordicai. 2004 Caldecott Acceptance Speech. Mordicai Gerstein: Author and Illustrator Mordicai Gerstein, 2004. Web. 22 February 2009. < http://www.mordicaigerstein.com/speech.html#cald> -----. The Man Who Walked Between the Towers Brookfield: Roaring Book Press, 2003. Print. Hjer, Olof. Le Gymnopdiste. Erik Satie Niclas Fogwell, 1996. Web. 12 February 2010. < http://www.af.lu.se/~fogwall/article2.html > Kaplan, E. Ann. Trauma Culture: The Politics and Terror of Loss in Media Culture. New Brunswick : Rutgers UP 2005. Print. Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamentals of Concepts Psychoanalysis Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York and London: W.W. Norton, 1978. Print. LaCapra, Dominick. Writing History, Writing Trauma. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2001. Print. Laquer, Walter. Fin-de -sicle: Once More With Feeling. Journal of Contemporary History 31.1 (1996): 5 -47. JSTOR Web. 14 February 2010. Let the Great World Spin Q & A. Let the Great World Spin. Colum McCann, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2009. < http://www.col ummccann.com/interviews/LTGWSinterview.htm >

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39 Mehegan, David. Mordicai Gersteins Tightrope Act. Boston Globe. Boston Globe, 22 Jan. 2004. Web. 16 Jun. 2009. < http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2004/01/22/mordicai_gersteins_tightro pe_act/ > McCann, Colum. Let the Great World Spin: A Novel New York: Random House, 2009. Print. McCully, Emily Arnold. Mirette on the High Wire. New York: Putnam, 1992. Print. McManus, Susan. Theorizing Utopian Agency: Two Steps Toward Utopian Techniques of the Self. Theory and Event 10.3 (2007): n. pag. Academic Search Premier Web. 14 February 2010. Academic Search Premier. Petit, Philippe. To Reach the Clouds New York: North Point Press, 2002. Print. Rose, Jacqueline. The Case of Peter Pan, or, The Impossibility of Childrens Fiction. London: The Ma cmillan Press, 1984. Print. Shaw, Philip. The Sublime New York: Routledge, 1996. Print. Steedman, Carolyn. Strange Dislocations: Childhood and the Idea of Human Interiority, 17801930 Cambridge: Harvard UP 1995. Print. Stein, Ruthe. Man on Wire: Tw in Towers high wire walk. San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco Chronicle, 3 Aug. 2008. Web. 9 Jun. 2009. < http://articles.sfgate.com/2008 0803/entertainment/17124658_1_philippe petit highwire twin -towers > Weber, Eugen. France, Fin de Sicle Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1986. Print. Wegner, Phillip. Imaginary Communities: Utopia, the Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity Berkel e y: University of California Press, 2002. Print. Williams, Murphy. Man on Wire: the poet of the sky. Telegraph. United Kingdom, 23 July 2008. Web. 14 February 2010. < http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/starsandstories/3557290/ManonWire the poet of the -sky.html > Zizek, Slavoj. Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture. Cambridge and London: MIT UP 1991. Print. -----. Welcome to the Desert of the Real London & New York: Verso Press, 2002. Print.

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40 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Emily A. Mur phy was born in Gainesville, Florida but spent most of her life in Orlando, Florida. She returned to Gainesville in 2005 to begin her undergraduate studies, and received a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2008. She chose to continue her studies at the Univer sity of Florida in order to pursue a Master of Arts in English. Upon completion of her masters degree, Emily will continue her studies at the doctoral level. She hopes to continue to find ways to combine her interests in subjectivity, trauma, and childrens literature in her future work.