New Class Looks at 9/11: Students Investigate New Perspective in History

Angela Baldwin
Staff Reporter

What do the disciplines of English, Sociology, Political Science and Cross Cultural Studies have to say about the 9/11 tragedy? That’s what the new Sophomore Interdisciplinary Class, “September 11th and Its Aftermath” hopes to accomplish.

Dr. Rebecca Carpenter, of the English Department, ended up in charge of putting the 9/11 class together. “I took the initiative and put it together,” she said.

In response to high interest in teaching the class, Dr. Lauren Dundes, of the Sociology Department, and Dr. Christianna Leahy, of the Political Science Department, became the other two professors.

During preparation for the class, the faculty experienced and learned from the different disciplines. Dr. Leahy mentioned, “We worked all summer narrowing it down,” in reference to cooperation in choosing material for the class.

Each discipline has a specific goal in focusing on 9/11. Dr. Leahy’s focus is how US foreign and domestic policy has changed since 9/11 and, in addition, why 9/11 happened. “You have to understand the history of US policy,” Dr. Leahy said, emphasizing the importance of this to understanding 9/11.

Dr. Leahy answers the “Why” question with an article by Fareed Zakaria from Newsweek, and a chapter of a book by Robert Fisk.
She chose the Newsweek article for its “average, doctor’s office level writing,” anyone can understand this “thoughtful, interesting piece.” On the other hand, Robert Fisk’s answer was “sophisticated, had a breadth of knowledge all in one chapter,” Dr. Leahy said.

She also discusses the US policy on torture, the general “disregard of humanitarian law” and the “US disregard of human rights.”

“Events gain meaning through the narratives told about them,” Dr. Carpenter said, revealing what English has to do with 9/11. She mentioned how meaning of 9/11 is found from the construction of stories about the event.

In addition, she emphasized how stories from different perspectives are important to understanding all the meanings of a single event.

From her reading assignments, there are several different nationalities included. She also has the students read a novel called The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a play called “Stuff Happens,” and poems about 9/11.

From the variety of readings, she hopes that her students “emerge better informed citizens of a democracy.” She believes that “You need to understand how others think to be informed.”

Dr. Dundes’ focus is to “engage in the systematic study of society and look for social patterns” as well as “encourage students to be aware of ethnocentricism and to see events such as 9/11 from a culturally relativistic viewpoint.”

Her focus pertains to the “issues of race, gender and cross-cultural understanding as they pertain to 9/11.”

Dr. Dundes, along with Dr. Roxanna Harlow, conducted research on how factors like gender and race affect reactions and views of 9/11. She assigned the article, published in Sociological Perspectives, along with assigning “The Terror Dream” by Susan Faludi.

“The Terror Dream,” according to Dr. Dundes, claims that “after a humiliating attack on our dominant invincible nation, we temporarily embraced a vigilante cowboy mentality where feminist ideals were replaced by a portrayal of women in need of rescue.”

Dr. Mohamed Esa, guest lecturer, teaches students everything about Islam; misconceptions, terrorist groups, radical movements and background. He said that most have “no idea about Islam” and that the students “deserve more that what CNN gives, they deserve balanced exposure. There’s good stuff about Islam.”