French teacher discusses parallel between sexual assault and 9/11 attacks

Melissa Rollins, Staff Writer

French professor Dr. Elizabeth Zahnd will speak on the connection between sexual assaults and the 9/11 attacks at the Humanities and Social Science Symposium on Thursday, April 3 at 3:45 p.m. in the Thomason Auditorium of the Lee Nursing Building.

Zahnd’s presentation will be made up of readings from a book called “Compter jusqu’ a cent,” which was written by Melani Gelinas, a French Canadian author. The novel was written in French, but Zahnd will be reading the English version that she translated.

Zahnd said that she chose to read from this novel at the symposium, because the first time she read it she really connected with it.

“‘Count to One Hundred’ (the English translation of the novel’s title) is by far the most dramatic novel I’ve ever read in my life,” Zahnd said. “And I’ve read a lot of novels.”

Zahnd’s specialty is twentieth century literature. She was introduced to the novel when she was doing research on French language novels. An evolution in her research led her to twenty-first century literature and novels about the attacks on 9/11.

Zahnd said that she hopes that a lot of students will attend the symposium because she feels that the subject matter is something that they can relate to.

A report that Zahnd had from the Medical University of South Carolina estimated that 22 percent of all rape victims are between the ages of 18 to 24, the ages of many college students. The novel she is reading from is the story of a sexual assault victim, written from the perspective of a 19-year-old victim.

Zahnd also feels that students can relate to the experience of living through 9/11 in a way that is very different than any other age group. Most college students today were old enough to understand what happened when the towers fell, and their lives changed drastically afterward. In this same way, a sexual assault victim’s life changes significantly after they are attacked.

Zahnd plans to read the passages in the book that she believes are the most passionate and poetic, the ones she feels will connect the most with the audience.

“Each chapter is like a beautiful poem,” Zahnd said. “I chose the ones to read that I felt like I persevered the integrity of the writing the most.”

Even though the book is very serious and dramatic, Zahnd hopes that students take away more than that from the reading. She wants students to also understand that the novel is about healing and forgiveness. It is about a victim speaking out against their attacker, not allowing them to have control of their life.

With V-Week having taken place in early March, Zahnd hopes to continue the dialogue on sexual assault with this symposium. She encourages any students who have V-Day shirts to wear them to the symposium.