Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech Shootings and Creative Writing

One strand of the discussion about the Virginia Tech shootings has focused on the fact that the killer was a creative writing student. Some of the commentary on this matter has been poorly informed, but here's a thoughtful piece from Inside Higher Ed:

When Creative Writing Provides a Clue

Cho Seung-Hui, the senior Virginia Tech English major who apparently killed 32 people on campus Monday before turning the gun on himself, seems to have fancied himself a writer. Albeit one with grotesque tastes: AOL’s blog published two of his short plays Tuesday, one of which, “Mr. Brownstone,” features characters who fantasize about killing a teacher and “watch[ing] him bleed.” The second, “Richard McBeef” discusses pedophilia and concludes with a stepfather killing a 13-year-old boy soon after the boy’s attempt to forcibly stuff a banana cereal bar down the stepfather’s throat.

The tenor of Cho’s writings apparently did not go unnoticed. Ian MacFarlane, a former classmate who provided the plays to AOL, told the publication that Cho’s plays were “like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn’t have even thought of.”

“[W]e students were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter. I was even thinking of scenarios of what I would do in case he did come in with a gun, I was that freaked out about him,” McFarlane told AOL.

Nor did the creative writing faculty at Virginia Tech apparently fail to read between’s Cho’s typed lines. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Lucinda Roy, co-director of Virginia Tech’s creative writing program, had warned university police and officials about Cho. While Virginia Tech officials were sympathetic, the Post reported, they said there was little they could do in absence of a direct threat. “I don’t want to be accusatory, or blaming other people,” the Post reported Roy as saying. “I do just want to say, though, it’s such a shame if people don’t listen very carefully, and if the law constricts them so that they can’t do what is best for the student.”

More here.

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