Feed on

About all of it, and broadly, because that is how I’ve been thinking about it: in broad terms. And think about it I certainly have. In fact — and I do not mean this in any hard core academic sense (though maybe I should profess otherwise) — I’ve thought and spoken about this class far more outside of the classroom than in it.  In all of this mulling over books and class discussions, and all of the ranting I did to Marta in between JGB’s class and Yoga (as well as at plenty of other times), I’ve come to a number of conclusions that I didn’t know I would.  I’ve realized things, the discovery of which I would not have cited as goals at the beginning of the semester.

At risk of sounding overtly touchy-feeling and abstract, I have to say it: This class has taught me things about myself.

I don’t know much more about what literally happened on September 11th, and especially not about its military aftermath.  Going into the course, those are both things that I felt ignorant of, and gaps in my understanding which I wondered if literature would help to fill.  Looking a the entire event as a college student instead of as an elementary school child is what has shifted and bolstered my understanding of 9/11, in terms of what it means to me as an American of this generation, as well as what it means to my country. Yes, this sounds ridiculously clichéd.  However, before this Honors seminar, it would have been anything but routine for me to examine September 11th to any extent beyond the superficial.

Growing up after the attacks, I saw the whole calamity — in addition to the war that I saw as its result — through the fogged lens of my parents’ politics, my own culture shock, and anger (mine and that of those around me).  Thanks to my family’s indirect commentary, I knew that it was wrong to talk badly about Muslims just because a few of them were bad.  I knew that George W. Bush was an idiot and a bad leader, and that war was not the answer. I knew that I didn’t have God or understand America the way that my peers did, and I was angry with their anger and with the ineffable injustice of all of it, with the violence that was always just beyond reach, just out of focus.  I didn’t understand cause and effect. Most of all, I didn’t understand the deaths. I know now that I can’t understand the way that so many people have had to, but it is that understanding to which this class has brought me closer.

This class has been about death.  I’m incredibly fortunate in that this is another topic on which I’m very inexperienced. The emotional insight that the readings this semester have provided into the lives of victims of the September 11 attacks is, I think, a powerful testament to the skill of the authors and the effect of art as a response to tragedy. Having taken this class, I feel that one goal of such art is to provide any given reader with an emotional connection to the event.  Certain books we’ve read do this better than others. Falling Man, for example, left me feeling disconnected from the characters as they had been from their own lives, whereas Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was a veritable (if enjoyable) overload of emotion.  This is not to imply that DeLillo did not write a very effective novel, and nor did Hamid or any other author whom I would deem as less emotionally focused than Foer. Reminiscent of our recent class discussion on the scale of politically to socially focused novels, there is a scale of overt emotional expression that interlocks with other important aspects of response novels (for example, the idea of allegory or that of political commentary).

All of that being said, I have to reiterate that it is not the politics, or even the social commentary from these readings that most profoundly effected me, however well they were done (see The Submission, The Zero, or The Reluctant Fundamentalist, just as examples). It is the direct representation of the lives of human beings in the wake of 9/11. I feel that, through the multitude of characters presented to us in the class, from those in “September” and “Twilight of the Superheroes” to Aaron and Ahmed, to the slough of characters in The Submission, I can finally begin to understand what September 11, 2001 meant to America when it happened, as time went on, and what it means now to me, as an emerging adult, half a lifetime after the attacks.


Essentially, I wish that I could write some sort of rousing speech down in this blog post, forever immortalizing how I feel about this Honors seminar.  It has made me more aware of my own identity as an American and a human being. It’s been sad and engaging, and it’s made me appreciate the multitude of perspectives and intellects around the table and on the blog. It’s been illuminating, and I’m being corny.

One Response to “I’m going to ramble about this class.”

  1. Olivia: Thanks so very much for this. I learned a great deal in this class as well. More than anything, I think, I learned that gifted students can indeed take possession of their own educations. They can introduce ideas, sort them out, pursue them, evaluate them, abandon and embrace them. And what a wonderful thing it is to watch this happen.I felt a bit like the conductor of an extremely talented orchestra.