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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame: A fairytale or a piece of disaster literature

As I wrapped up my first year at Notre dame, I could’t help but reflect on all that has changed over that past year. Strangers became family, Ryan turned into home and 60 degrees fahrenheit became crop-top weather. However, out of anything I could add to the list, the one thing that changed the most was how I perceived the world around me, and the books I read for my seminar were a big part of that. My life in Notre Dame became filled with references to books such as Camus’ “The Plague” and “1984” by George Orwell.

Everything in Notre Dame, except for the weather, screams Disney. The Golden Dome, the football games, the grotto and the tulip gardens give our campus a fairytale-esque ambience. But underlying this magical scenery, direct connections with “The Plague” by Albert Camus can be drawn. Notre Dame’s location itself deeply reminds me of the setting of this classic of disaster literature. Even before the plague that installed the ultimate confinement, Oran is described as an extremely isolated city, leaving the idea that “exile” is relative and could be applied to the town just as easily before the plague as after. It deeply reminds me of South Bend. The endless flat lands, the serious gentrification and the 90-minute train ride from the closest “big city” really sets up this feeling that we are completely exiled from the rest of the world, and that a plague could affect our area and not spread to the rest of America.

However, this is not the only parallel between our beloved university and Camus’ masterpiece. Notre Dame is also struck by a plague: the Menbroza. This very particular name is used to characterize the students of the renowned Mendoza School of Business, who are known on campus for having the life that I, as an Arts and Letters kid, sometimes wish I had. The idea of being able to live a life with no classes on Fridays, three-day weekends and 15 credit hour semesters spreads like a plague, and infects people in all of Notre Dame’s colleges. Suddenly, people that arrived with dreams of changing the world with anthropology, economics and political science degrees got infected with the SIBC/finance-bro lifestyle virus and decided to dedicate their freshman year to transferring to Mendoza so they can get a more “useful” major.

As I mentioned before, Notre Dame’s connection to classics of disaster literature is not restricted only to “The Plague.” America’s best Catholic University is infamous nationwide for its parietals policy, which restricts members of the opposite sex from being in each other’s living spaces after specific hours. At first glance, these rules may seem simply to be an attempt to promote healthy relationships and prevent sexual activity, but they, in a way, share similarities with the politics of sex that George Orwell explores in his dystopian novel, “1984.” In this classic, Orwell portrays a society where sex is heavily regulated and used as a tool for the government to maintain control over its citizens. The party in the novel seeks to control not just people’s actions, but their thoughts and desires as well, extending to their sexual lives.

However, at the heart of this classic lies an erotic love story between Julia and Winston, whose liaison is, therefore, a political act in opposition to the powers that be. While the specific contexts and motivations behind Notre Dame’s parietals and Orwell’s politics of sex may differ, both highlight the ways in which sexuality can be used as a tool of control and regulation. Moreover, in both cases, this regulation that serves to limit personal freedom and individual autonomy, suggests that personal responsibility and decision-making are not trusted or encouraged.

Most of my writings so far tackled my family relations, dreams, fears, friendships and love (dis)encounters. In them, I allowed parts of me that I didn’t even know existed to come out. I explored my newfound creativity and developed critical sense. As I nostalgically read through all of them, I am able to see all that has changed and how much I matured not only as a writer, but also as a person. For this, the countless advice and unconditional support that being a student in such a prestigious university entails, I will be eternally grateful for my seminar and professor.

Lara is a member of the class of 2026 from Taubaté, Brasil with majors in Economics and Chinese. When she is not complaining about the weather, you can find her studying in a random room of O’Shaughnessy with her friends or spending all her flex points in Garbanzo.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.