It’s no secret that Harvard students have a lot to look forward to in life. But nothing puts the tickle in a Harvard student’s pickle quite like seeing an unread email from the Undergraduate Council in their inbox. This is certainly the case with UC President Yasmin Z. Sachee ’18 and Vice President Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18’s masterfully composed Jan. 26 email, “Re: Back at it.” Through its immeasurable range of rhetorical chutzpah, “Re: Back at it” sends readers on an electrifying odyssey through the brilliant literary minds behind Harvard’s student government.
Yaz and Cam’s email begins modestly: “Dear Harvard.” Through the use of metonymy, Yaz and Cam address Harvard students not on an individual basis, but as a combined whole—an academic gestalt, if you will—while introducing the motif of unity that is developed later in the email. Yaz and Cam’s choice of the word “dear” should also not be overlooked; “dear,” considered a traditional greeting by most scholars of the epistolary arts, suggests a rather conventionalist attitude towards the political tenor of the new Undergraduate Council administration. Yaz and Cam are not looking to change Harvard’s existing institutions any time soon.
The email then encourages Harvard students to have an enjoyable and productive shopping week. Yaz and Cam follow their unassuming statement with the claim that the secret to achieving success is “always Hebrew Bible.” In the most literal sense, this phrase seems to allude to “Culture and Belief 23: The Hebrew Bible,” a class taught by Professor Shaye J. D. Cohen with an overall Q-score of 4.1. Given this above-average rating, it would only make sense that one’s enrollment in The Hebrew Bible would indeed elicit “as smooth a start as possible” to this semester. But don’t be fooled: “Hebrew Bible” is an adianoetic euphemism for the Old Testament of the Judeo-Christian scripture, a virtual “Hallelujah!” meant to subliminally infuse flavors of piety and spiritual fervor into Yaz and Cam’s otherwise secular message.
Perhaps most striking is the bolded, center-aligned phrase, “So. let’s. [sic] hit. [sic] the. [sic] ground. [sic] running. [sic]” Much can be said about this single sentence unconventionally broken up into six one-word sentences that have no individual meaning whatsoever. Placing a period in between every single word, Yaz and Cam ingeniously transform the hackneyed idiom “hit the ground running” into something art nouveau, deconstructivist with a rococo twist, palatable to even the most finicky of readers.
Further down in the message is a Graphics Interchange Format—(or GIF)—of the famous training scene from the 1979 blockbuster film “Rocky II,” captioned, “live feed of tercentenary theater @ 9:06 a.m.” Many readers may initially become confused, and with good reason. One may notice, for example, that the GIF features the title character, Rocky, running in front of the Philadelphia skyline in broad daylight, whereas the very same Philadelphia skyline is only visible from Tercentenary Theater during the full moon. How, then, could this possibly be a live feed of Tercentenary Theater? Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that Yaz and Cam are purposely deceiving readers using a technique known as humor; the stark differences between the two images—sweaty Harvard students running in Tercentenary Theater and sweaty people who are not Harvard students running in a location that is not Tercentenary Theater—are designed to release the reader from the hypnotic allure of mass media, calling into question the didactic certainties of the so-called “live feed.”
“Re: Back at it” ends just as abruptly as it begins, this time with a cryptic mathematical expression representing the sum of the two authors’ names: “Yaz + Cam.” What can this possibly mean? One can only assume that Yaz and Cam intend this expression to remain unanswered and open to interpretation. But it doesn’t take an Applied Mathematics concentrator to know that Yaz + Cam = pure literary genius.