"The Law is just words after all": Torture, truth, and language in the post-9/11 United States and Percival Everett's The Water Cure

Wendy McMahon

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Through a reading of Percival Everett's experimental novel, The Water Cure, this essay argues for the need to interrogate the law as literature and language if we are to understand the moral permissibility of torture in the changed cultural and political understandings of war since 9/11. Working from the premise that the law and literature, through language and narrative, create social worlds and are worldmaking, this essay analyzes what happens to the law and narrative when the law writes torture into being. When confronted with the practice of torture, the novel ceases to be worldmaking and instead enacts the world unmade.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-526
Number of pages28
JournalMFS: Modern Fiction Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • 9/11; Law; American Literature; Torture; Percival Everett

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