Pompeii on the Mississippi: The View From New Orleans

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Abstract

Hurricane Katrina's landfall on August 29, 2005, has had a profound affect on the lives of everyone living in coastal Louisiana and Mississippi. Leaving behind a vast swath of destruction and many dead, the storm has reshaped lives, careers, and perspectives. This article is largely a personal statement about a university professor's experience of teaching a course on Pompeii in post-Katrina New Orleans. For 6 years she has taught a course on the material culture and lives of the Romans at Pompeii. Lecturing on the destruction of that city in January 2006, less than 3 weeks after her own return to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, led her to consider what lessons might be gained from Pompeii and other past disasters. The article shares this professor's experience in teaching a freshman orientation course that attempts to understand Hurricane Katrina within a historical framework, examining past catastrophic events in urban areas and developing new approaches to the Pompeii course, linking it to the Katrina disaster and New Orleans' recovery. The author offers some brief comments on an aspect of the public discourse about Katrina, the comparison of New Orleans' disaster with the destruction of Pompeii.

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