Writing about Grief: September 11 perspective

What: Writing about Grief: September 11 perspective Who: Dr. Mary Hallet, Assistant Professor of English and Director of First Year English, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Contacts: Dr. Hallet's UMass Dartmouth office: 508/ 999-8291, or contact News director Maeve Hickok at 508/999-8765.

August 5, 2002 

What: Writing about Grief: September 11 perspective 

Who: Dr. Mary Hallet, Assistant Professor of English and Director of First Year English, 
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth 

Contacts: Dr. Hallet’s UMass Dartmouth office: 508/ 999-8291, 
or contact News director Maeve Hickok at 508/999-8765. 

Why: This September, thousands of adolescents will return to school and university classrooms with the joys of summer vacation as much with them as the sand in their shoes. A week or two later, though, along with the pressures of their academic studies they’ll be thrust back into the collective –and perhaps individual—grief that will flow when our nation observes the first anniversary of September 11. Unfamiliar territory for us all, to be sure, but since everything matters TERRIBLY in adolescence, how well they cope may well depend on how well they can communicate their feelings. 

Dr. Mary Hallet, Director of First Year English at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, is expert on the teaching of writing about grief to students. It was the topic of her dissertation —Grief (W)rites: Composing Loss in the Composition Classroom—and she continues to write extensively in this area. 

She says: “I always invite writing from students about events such as Sept. 11th. I’ve found that when allowed the opportunity to choose topics, a good number of any class of first year students, or even upperclass men and women, will write about a loss in their lives. Some of my colleagues believe that this signifies a turning inward and a kind of solipsism. But I have found instead that students often seek to reconstitute relationships and communities in their writing about grief. I also believe that given the overall diminishment of sacred ceremonials of/about/around grief (the formal church funeral, for example) students’ writing seems to serve a kind of funerary purpose. Often, for example, they make copies of essays they’ve written in their English 101 classes about the death of grandparents in particular, and make gifts of these essays to their parents. These essays,in turn, become a part of the funerary mementos families save to remember the deceased.” 

Although she is not teaching grief writing this semester, she is available for interviews about her experiences teaching this type of writing and the impact it has on adolescents. 

A selective list of Dr. Hallett’s recent publications and presentations follows: 

“When Students Write About Death” 
Conference on College Composition and Communication 
Chicago, IL, to be presented on March 2002 

“First Year Students and the ‘Culture’ of Death” 
Mid-Atlantic American/Popular Culture Association (MAPCA) Conference

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