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January 05 , 2008

America's Culture of Terrorism

Violence, Capitalism, and the Written Word


Although the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 shocked the world, America has confronted terrorism at home for well over a century. With the invention of dynamite in 1866, Americans began to worry about anonymous acts of mass violence in a way that differed from previous generations' fears of urban riots, slave uprisings, and mob violence. Focusing on the volatile period between the 1886 Haymarket bombing and the 1920 bombing outside J. P. Morgan's Wall Street office, Jeffory Clymer argues that economic and cultural displacements caused by the expansion of industrial capitalism directly influenced evolving ideas about terrorism.

In America's Culture of Terrorism, Clymer uncovers the roots of American terrorism and its impact on American identity by exploring the literary works of Henry James, Ida B. Wells, Jack London, Thomas Dixon, and Covington Hall, as well as trial transcripts, media reports, and the cultural rhetoric surrounding terrorist acts of the day. He demonstrates that the rise of mass media and the pressures of the industrial wage-labor economy both fueled the development of terrorism and shaped society's response to it. His analysis not only sheds new light on American literature and culture a century ago but also offers insights into the contemporary understanding of terrorism.
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