Unspeakable: Literature and Terrorism from the Gunpowder Plot to 9/11 explores the representation of terrorism in plays, novels, and films across the centuries. Time and time again, writers and filmmakers including William Shakespeare, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, Gillo Pontecorvo, Don DeLillo, John Updike, and Steven Spielberg refer to terrorist acts as beyond comprehension, “a deed without a name,” but they do not stop there. Instead of creating works that respond to terrorism by providing comforting narratives reassuring audiences and readers of their moral superiority and the perfidy of the terrorists, these writers and filmmakers confront the unspeakable by attempting to see the world from the terrorist’s perspective and by examining the roots of terrorist violence.

chapter |18 pages


Speakable/Unspeakable: The Rhetoric of Terrorism

chapter 1|16 pages

“A Deed Without a Name”

Macbeth, the Gunpowder Plot, and Terrorism

chapter 2|30 pages

Terrorism in the Nineteenth Century

From the French Revolution to the Stevensons, Greer, James, Conrad, and the Rossetti Sisters

chapter 3|42 pages

When Terrorism becomes Speakable

Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers and the Literature of the Troubles

chapter 4|39 pages


Unspeakability in John le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl, Steven Spielberg’s Munich, and Mohammed Moulessehoul [Yasmina Khadra]’s The Attack

chapter 5|42 pages

“Why Do They Hate Us?”

Updike, Hamid, DeLillo

chapter |19 pages


Where Do We Go from Here? Nadeem Aslam, Amy Waldman, and Jodi Picoult