Emerging Memories: A Rhetorical History of Remembering after September 11, 2001

Events like September 11 create ruptures with the past, leading to the construction of public memory sites to capture the past and the moment of transformation. While many scholars focus on official, more stable memorials and ask questions about the impact of these sites on present understanding, I argue processes of public remembering evolve through a complex process that cannot be overlooked. In my dissertation, I examine the process of collectively remembering September 11, beginning in the immediate aftermath and culminating with the opening of the September 11 museum in downtown New York City. I consider how remembering 9/11 has developed over time by compiling a comprehensive, chronological, and systematic rhetorical history of memory artifacts. To do so, I locate major shifts in the process of constructing shared narratives about this event, analyze individual rememberers accounts of this past, and examine the interplay between participants at both official and local levels. Ultimately, I argue that considering the process of remembering in addition to stable sites of memory is critical to understanding the development of shared stories and the missed opportunities that could clarify memory practices and enhance how we respond to the past.

  • Chapter 1 considers the earliest reports in newspaper stories from September 12, 2001.
  • Chapter 2 takes up oral history collections and the personal narratives shared in these volumes.
  • Chapter 3 examines how the Park51 controversy complicates and reveals underlying assumptions related to ongoing memory practices.
  • Chapter 4 investigates how early activities of remembering laid the groundwork for official memorial sites – including the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in NYC, the Pentagon Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the Flight 93 Memorial outside Shanksville, PA. 

(A more in depth overview of my dissertation project can be found here.)


“Paul A. Cohen, History and Popular Memory: The Power of Story in Moments of Crisis” Book Review. Storyworlds 6.2 (2014).

Conference Presentations

Voices in the Crowd: Oral Histories and Public Remembering  RSA 2016

“Troubling” Instructor Feedback: Fostering Transfer Through Strategic Commenting  CCCC 2016

Official Frames for Remembering September 11: A Top-Down Approach  RSA 2014

Public Memory and Social Knowledge in the Case of the 9/11 Memorial and Park51 Controversy  RSA 2014

The Park51 Controversy and the Construction of Public Memory after 9/11 IU Bloomington Grad Conference 2012

Professional Workshops

Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Integration in the Curriculum  DHSI June 2016

Rhetoric, Memory, Archive, Museum  RSA Institute June 2013

Poster Presentations of Research

Technology Enhanced Learning: Writing Practices in the Humanities Teaching and Learning Summit 2016

Using Google Drive to Create a Collaborative Writing Community Teaching and Learning Summit 2016

Emerging Memories: A Rhetorical History of Remembering After September 11 Innovation with Impact 2016

Organizational Memberships

RSA  Rhetoric Society of America 

NCTE  National Council of Teachers of English