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Towards a Poethics of Terror

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Ian Ward


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The contempoprary experience of terrorism asks considerable questions of classical conceptions of law and legal theory in the field of political violence. These questions are rooted in problems of definition, and they are not reserved to the discipline of law. It has been argued that terrorism is an innately mythic construct, and that the world in which the terrorist, and counter-terrorist, operates, is one of collective enchantment. This article is premised upon this supposition. It argues that a 'poethical' approach, one that embraces the particular disciplinary insights of language and literature, presents a vital supplement to present jurisprudential endeavors to comprehend terrorism. The first part of the article argues the case for a poethics of terror. The second and third then discuss the particular treatment of terrorism in the novels of Joseph Conrad, Feodor Dostoevsky and J.M. Coetzee. The final part of the article reiterates the particular strategic value of a poethical approach in our endeavor to access an ethical, as well as political and cultural, understanding of modern terrorism. © 2008 Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ward I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Law, Culture and the Humanities

Year: 2008

Volume: 4

Issue: 2

Pages: 248-279

Print publication date: 01/06/2008

ISSN (print): 1743-8721

ISSN (electronic): 1743-9752

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/1743872108091476


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