Thinking about Irving in Light of 9/11

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

BY TRACY HOFFMAN
President of the Washington Irving Society

Washington Irving Wednesday fell on 9/11 last week. After starting the blog, deleting, starting again, and deleting once more, I decided not to post.

Last Wednesday for me started at the gym. Only one station was playing live coverage from September 11, 2001. I watched this one channel for a good hour while on an elliptical. I thought it was important to remember.

All of the stations came alive for the memorial service in New York, but they all cut off when the moment of silence started, except for this one station. Commercials, rape accusations, and the latest Apple news were more important than having a moment of silence. At least that was the situation in Texas. Perhaps stations in New York and elsewhere did something else.

Fortunately, my American Literary Cultures class last Wednesday met in the library for a research hunt, so I didn’t lecture. Students had to pick a topic of interest to investigate, and I did suggest 9/11 if that interested anyone. No student opted for my suggestion.

So, as an Early Americanist, an Americanist, a nineteenth-century scholar, a Washington Irving expert, and as an American, I’m left wondering how to respond to the apparent disinterest in the most monumental event of my young adulthood.

Are we scholars to blame?

On slow news days (and even on some busy news days), the media covers what creative people put out there. Are we too busy feeding on Facebook and Instagram, snapchatting and facetiming, to create original content about September 11?

Since I’m blogging for the Washington Irving Society, I also have to ask myself: Are Irving scholars to blame for whether people know and read Irving?

I wouldn’t be studying Irving today had it not been for 9/11. He wrote about topics of special interest to me: Islam and America’s past, to name a few.

And that’s how I felt last week.

This week, after giving myself time to cool off, I thought about my parents and their memories of the JFK assassination.

They were living in Dallas-Fort Worth, and they were dating. My dad dropped my mom off at the hair salon and forgot about her. That’s the memory they smile about when asked: “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?”

Ironically, local TV news stations broadcast the footage of JFK riding through the streets of Dallas on the day of his death. Of course, that’s in Texas, so it could be different elsewhere. It seems, then, that in Texas at least, people are more interested in seeing JFK film clips than 9/11 takes.

So maybe we can remember 9/11 in our own individual ways, rather than following what the media send or don’t send our way.

That’s the best I have for today. Next week, I’ll be back to chase another Washington Irving rabbit trail.

Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post here on the site. You may also contact me at Tracy_Hoffman@baylor.edu. I try to answer emails and update the page on Wednesdays.

Published in: on September 18, 2019 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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