Memory Essay #4: At the Crossroads of History and Narrative: The Personal and the “Official” on 9/11

Bring up 9/11 and, eventually, everyone starts sharing their personal “What-I-Was-Doing-When-It-Happened” narratives.  It is a near-automatic response and, for some reason, almost always has the effect of comforting those involved in the retelling.  As part of an effort to preserve and dignify the experience of Americans who have lived through traumatic and defining moments of history, you’ve been asked to transcribe and annotate the personal narrative of any individual who can recount their recollection of September 11, 2001.  Your job will be to conduct and record an oral interview, transcribe the speech into text, annotate portions of your interviewee’s narrative that differ in some way from the 9/11 Commission Report, and offer an overall analysis that explains the reasons for these differences.  Afterwards, you will load your transcript and analysis onto the course blog as the final entry of the semester.

Audience: Anyone interested in narrative histories of 9/11

Format: 5-7 pages, MLA style

(FOR INSTRUCTORS ONLY)

Type: Write an essay in a specified genre where you use evidence to convey a new insight to a general reader.

Rationale: This lesson moves away from the traditional research paper to give students an opportunity to create primary texts through field research, then use the critical apparatus they have acquired to relate those texts to the official historical narrative. This assignment also asks them to reproduce their work in a digital medium.

Pre-Draft Activities:

  1. Interview a class member and create a personality profile of your subject based on the interview
  2. Critique an episode of This American Life
  3. Develop “Rules for Writing” wiki based on differences between “fiction” and “non-fiction” narrative conventions

Memory_Essay4 (doc)

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