Chase was scheduled to teach her Dickens seminar the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She emailed her graduate students, saying she’d understand if anyone didn’t want to come to class, but she would be there to discuss the author.
“Every student turned up on the day after 9/11. They wanted to talk about humor,” she said. “They wanted to talk about how it is appropriate to think about humor – not in spite of, but because of, the harshness and the brutality and the intolerance and the provinciality and the narrowness of a world that thinks violence is an answer to anything.”
She said they had a great discussion of “The Pickwick Papers,” an early novel that is very funny, but not as a way of ignoring or defending against the violence of the day before. “It was a way of trying to imagine what had happened and how we might respond to it,” Chase said.