I've decided that I need a blog (to the extent that anyone really needs a blog....) I suppose the real tell-tale sign that you need a blog is that your desire to babble about your life or overly specialized interests overtaxes the usual platforms for babbling (friends, family, facebook, etc.). I don't really expect much readership, but since the internet has become a collective mental rubbish heap, I figure any dumpster divers are welcome to my thoughts. After all, what's an information super highway without intellectual litter?
Here's me: I'm approaching 30, single, switching careers within academia -- which is to say, I didn't quite get to the point where you could call the first "career" a "career". My BA and MA are in Classics (philology; Hellenist). I was in a PhD program on fellowship and left before I'd managed to do anything really respectable like taking general exams, submitting a dissertation proposal, or publishing articles. Overall, this was a good thing because if I'd done much more it would have seemed too much effort to give up on. So, first I thought I should "get a real job" -- except that really successful academic types (and I was rather successful) rarely make successful practical types. Or, at any rate, they don't make for happy and successful practical types.
So, I'm starting over in a new field. I decided that I wanted to do theology (formally; everyone, in effect, does theology). I knew I wanted to be an academic and not a pastor and since I have very little educational background in religion, I knew I needed a Master's to even make me an attractive candidate for PhD programs. So, I applied to Harvard, Yale, and Duke for Master of Theological Studies/Master of Arts in Religion programs. Duke had the best financial offer and a really sweet director of admissions. So here I am in Durham, NC, procrastinating on a Church History paper.
Speaking of Church History.... This brings me to the focus of this blog and its more specific purposes (other than autobiographical self-indulgence). First, I should mention that although my reasons for choosing Duke were extremely weak and mercenary, I am convinced that this is the one of the best decisions that I've made in my life. It's a good program, academically speaking, but the best thing about it is that the faculty and administration and students are committed to an ethos, an Christian way of being that arises and is in harmony with the substance of their teaching. Integrity is a big thing with me; Duke Divinity has it.
Long story short: the advisor for the MTS program met with us students, got to know a bit about us, and told us what seminars to take (in addition to some normal core requirement classes). I told him my background and said I was interested in New Testament or Theology. He started trying to stick me in patristics. I was (covertly) annoyed and resentful, chiefly because he's in Theology proper and I figured that he was looking down on me because I didn't have the later philosophy background or I was a girl or he didn't like my face or something and didn't want me in his field. It just seemed sort of too obvious: "Oh, she used to read dead Greek and Latin guys; she should just keep reading dead Greek and Latin guys." I came here to do something different, didn't he get that?
I was hoping I had a time conflict with the seminar. No. I briefly entertained the idea of lying and saying I'd asked and been turned down (OK, very unChristian and very easy for the MTS advisor to double check). The professor for the Alexandrians seminar was the first one I met as he taught my core req' Church History course. So I dutifully asked him at the end of the first class if I could bypass the requirements and get in the seminar, hoping he'd say "No, you idiot -- one of the requirements is this course you're in with me right now! What are you thinking?" Of course, he said "Oh, sure, fine, no problem".
And now I'm realizing a few things:
1) The MTS advisor is much wiser than I am;
2) I really, really LOVE patristics and Early Christianity; and
3) It is, in fact, quite different from Classics when done in a Christian context.
So, I'm reading loads of Church fathers and mothers both in an outside of classes and I'm struggling with figuring out what this field is really about -- how it is similar to but different from academic work I've done before. Additionally, this program is strangely unlike my other graduate program. So, I wanted to blog about:
1) my interactions with these texts from early Christianity;
2) my struggles to make sense of the field and of how to really "be" in it; and
3) how (1) and (2) intersect with my personal faith and way of being in the world.
That's pretty much what to expect. Enough of procrastinating for the time being; time to get back to Cyril and Christology. I'll allow myself to blog about it as a treat when the paper is done.