Group Reading: Literature and History Come Together on 9/11

This September marks the 10th anniversary of the day terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. While a significant event of my generation, I feel disconnected from it; the passage of time has numbed me–and Americans, I think–from September 11’s impact. We’ve gotten used to how things are, some times forgetting  why. To shack off that numbness, read essays and articles from the months after September 11th.  Regina M. Buccola’s ‘”When All the Riches of the World Stand Waste…”‘ describes WAC working hard in a time of tragedy.

The title of this essays comes from an Anglo-Saxon alliterative poem called “The Wanderer”. Buccola reads this poem to her class the day after September 11th. Too often I hear my friends ask me, “What’s the point of writing and literature when I want to be a musician, or “What’s the point of writing and literature when I’m going to be a mechanic?” In this moment of tragedy, Buccola can get the point of literature across to her students in her British literature survet class. Because of September 11th, they were open to how it works. Reading “The Wanderer” was a great idea because it conveyed a common human event: decay, destruction, changing times, yearning for the past.

“We write to record our thoughts,” explains Buccola, “and we think in order to understand our very existence. Writing—whether in alliterative verse or philosophical prose—is an inextricable part of the human condition. Never before had it been so easy to get students to understand the importance, the value of poetry.” I love that statement because she articulates what I’ve tried to tell my friends. I also love that texts like “The Wanderer” “was actually preserved because of its theological or historical value and not necessarily for its literary merits.”

With this in mind, Buccola combines creative writing, literature, and history: the students must write a historical narrative about September 11th using allerative verse. This idea is fantastic; students get to be creative but also participat in a writing technique that dates back thousands of years. Even more fantastic, Buccola writes she does this often. I wish my survey classes did this, because students need more stimulus than five question quizes, idenitification exams, and two papers. A work can be more rewarding if it requires some creativity–than the works becomes your own. Something positive came out of this tragic event.

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7 Responses to Group Reading: Literature and History Come Together on 9/11

  1. wacmrsl says:

    It is always exciting to get to write differently than we are used to. As English majors, we are essay bound 100% (or close) of the time. Anytime we get a little freedom (although it is very scary to me, personally) we usually run with it and have fun!! I know now, because of this course, that all writing is important and I plan to have fun with it next year in my classroom. If I dread reading it, I know they dread writing it!!!

  2. wacrant2011 says:

    Great post! 🙂 I think it is very important for students to understand that literature stands the test of time. It can still apply to today. Students can still be connected to a great piece of literature. I think it is also great how literature can help us heal from a horrible even like 9/11.

  3. I love reading articles that emphasize successful blends of disciplines. It’s inspiring and motivating to keep pushing through and challenging ourselves as thinking. And I love that we can give something that is usually considered boring (or hard or painful) an engaging spin. I know people would rather invest in a personal style of writing than something else.

  4. Valley Girl says:

    I love your post and how you related using reading and writing in context with the tragedy of 9-11. It is amazing that many times it is through trying times that something beautiful is created. I’m not trying to diminish anyone’s pain, but true beauty is a product of pain.

    “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4, NIV). If we never face trials, we never experience growth which leads to perfection (completeness).

  5. I’m glad you brought this up–9/11 and WAC, and what a great conversation this post generated. It’s an amazing thing–this writing for each other. I keep thinking of what wacmrsl said early in the class on day–she’d taken classes with so many of you for years, but this was the first time she really got to see inside your minds. Still gives me chills to think that’s what we’re doing, but it is. And it’s breathtaking.

  6. scrapscribe says:

    Indeed! Participation really helps students ‘get’ something. I’ve seen this as I’ve been tutoring in a freshmen English class. They’re doing hands on assignments like making their own small magazines. They get to choose their subject matter so they get something interesting to them. I’ve watched them put a lot of time into these things. Along the way they stop and ask questions about their content, punctuation, or grammar. It’s just so exciting to see students excited about writing and actually seeing why it is important to be good writers. I agree with Sarah; reading articles/essays about successful interdisciplinary work is so encouraging. 🙂

  7. I think that assignment was a great way to get the students to connect with what happened on 9/11. Too often we forget about things that did not have a direct impact on us or our lives. Requiring the students to come up with their own historical narrative using allerative verse makes it more personal for them and it allows them to be creative as well.

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