Departmental Bulletin Paper Violence, Belief, and Viewpoint : A Cognitive Poetic Analysis of Fictional Narratives relating to Radical Islam

Richardson, Peter

68pp.23 - 55 , 2015-03-20 , 北海道大学大学院メディア・コミュニケーション研究院 = Research Faculty of Media and Communication, Hokkaido University
There is an important need for both non-Muslims and mainstream Muslims to explore and try to understand the motivations and reasoning behind the global phenomenon of radical Islam. Novels and short stories related to radical Islam can be useful tools to encourage people to explore these issues. However, different authors have different perspectives and ideologies,and portray religious extremism in very different ways. This article therefore provides a framework of analysis for critically exploring the views of the author of a fictional text,and then applies it to an analysis of two contemporary novels and a short story which relate in some way to radical Islamic fundamentalism:Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentlist (2007), Updike’s Terrorist (2007), and Amis’s The Last Days of Muhammad Atta (2008). This framework draws on cognitive poetics, an approach that specialises in analysing types of narration and the construction of fictional worlds, and empathy research. It is also underpinned by one of the key ideas of critical discourse analysis that the authors of texts often use language to represent knowledge about something in a way that assumes the validity of their ideologies. This article argues that Hamid’s novel focuses on a de-theologised sociological and political perspective that views some forms of radicalisation as the result of negative elements within American foreign policy and society. In contrast, Amis’s short story focuses on a perspective which views some forms of radical Islamic belief as a manifestation of serious psychological dysfunction, with elements of sociocultural dysfunction. I argue that only Updike’s novel attempts to represent and explore competing perspectives. He empathizes with the idea that embracing extreme, absolute forms of religious belief could be an attractive response to particular elements in modern society,such as consumerism and moral and theological relativism, and the erosion of traditional Christian and Jewish identities. However, he also explores the delusional and dangerous elements of extremism. I conclude by noting some key connections between Updike’s exploration and academic research into aspects of conservative and radical forms of religious belief,while also highlighting the importance of narratives relating to radical Islam that examine competing perspectives.

Number of accesses :  

Other information