theophiletos (theophiletos) wrote,

school again

Okay, so it's been a while since I've posted, but I can plead having a friend come visit us (which was very great fun, but did mean no lj for me) and then my wife's birthday. Yeah. That's my excuse...

I took two language exams, German and Arabic, and I haven't heard about Arabic yet, but I passed German! (This doesn't mean I speak German; it means that if I'm stuck looking at a piece of German scholarship I know what to do. More importantly, this means that I don't need to take a German class, but can do research this summer.) If I've passed Arabic too (very unclear, but I'm hopeful) that will mean no more language exams for me.

A friend who's doing a postdoc here in Byzantine studies has volunteered to teach a bunch of us Georgian, which should be great fun. The alphabet is even more difficult than Armenian, so I've made mini-flashcards to help me learn the letters. I have most of them down now.

This past week I've been swamped applying for summer funding. I don't know if I'll get it, but my hope is to spend the summer playing with Syriac manuscripts in Europe. (I didn't phrase my application that way, of course). I'm going to try to order manuscript reproductions to work with in June and July, and then travel to Berlin, Paris, London, Cambridge, and Oxford to see the manuscripts in person. If this works, it will be great fun, and my wife will come along to have a European adventure. On the other hand, this means I really do need to learn to speak French and German, because especially at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris they speak very good French, and I've heard that to be helped there you really need to speak French as well.

I've also been accepted to present at two conferences, so in April I'll spend one weekend at Notre Dame and another at Holy Cross in Boston. That should be fun, although it is two more papers to write. One of them is nearly done, and the other is rehashing past ideas, and is short. And then there's my research paper: you see, for my program I need to write two research papers, 25-30 pages each. What they don't tell you is that almost every professor will require you to write a research paper for class (I only had one last term, because I was taking a specially designated "reading" class, and the intro class HIS 500, but this term I will have three research papers to write at the end of it!), but to make it count as one of your *two* research papers you need to revise it to make them happy. So I've gotten back my research paper from last term, and the professor liked it, but I have to add some introductory discussion on theories of ethnicity in order for it to count. Grrr. And so an additional project.

Classes are fine. Far better than last term, but still far too much reading. One of my professors doesn't seem to care if we read everything, as long as we read the most important stuff (which he usually indicates to us verbally beforehand), but another professor assigns, in addition to the secondary literature, a very large primary source. The first time this happened, I ignored it and that was fine, but last week this professor started asking detailed questions about specific moments in this primary source! I don't have the time to read the whole thing. And the third professor asks us which books we've read. I have to choose very carefully how I phrase my answer. (This may seem pedantic to some, but I refuse to say I've "read" a book when I've read the intro and conclusion and chapter headings, and perhaps interesting sections. This may be enough to be able to discuss the book, but I'll say I've "looked at it," and reserve "I've read it" for when I've actually read at least the majority of the book.)

Nothing else much here. Busy with school and conference papers. And I'm increasingly finding out how easy it is for me to lose sight of my Maker, and yet how sweet it always is be filled with Him. I've also been wondering what it is that makes orthodox Christian humanities professors so rare. (Some of you will note the lower-case 'o' on "orthodox.") Some people might say, of course, that greater education leads to the realization of the poverty of that viewpoint, but I cannot accept such an explanation, in part because I've held many of the viewpoints held by my non-Christian professors and have instead been won over to the richness of the orthodox viewpoint, and in part because there are still a fair number of Christian humanities professors of one sort or other, but most of them pick and choose which orthodox views they hold onto and which they let go of, and there's not necessarily any clear progression of which views get abandoned at which levels of education. Besides, I think there are plenty of orthodox Christian scientists running around, who are as well educated as the humanities professors, just in a different field. This is an especially relevant question for me as I may hope to find myself as a humanities professor in another half-decade or so, but I wouldn't want to give up the richness of orthodoxy in order to accomplish that.
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Congrats on passing German!!! I hope Arabic goes as well. Next up, Russian?

Sigh, re the reading. And I have some ideas on why there are few orthodox Christian humanities professors--I think you can do it, but I have a feeling a lot of people give up due to aggravation. Hopefully you won't, because I think we need more of them.