Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hello again!

Thought I'd write a quick post this time around to tell you what classes I'm taking and how they're going so far...

Transitional Moments- this is a required course for my Master of Divinity degree and it's essentially a broad, survey course of major events in Western history from O CE to the Reformation. We have lecture for fifty minutes twice a week and section meeting once a week with a Teaching Fellow. My teaching fellow is a third-year in the Religious Studies Department PhD program here at Yale. Conveniently enough, she's an Americanist and we share a similar passion for American Religious History... this class is the least stimulating out of my offerings this semester. This is not a negative review of the professor, Dr. Eastman, who is incredibly kind, very knowledgeable and a great lecturer, but it's just so broad and it's a history class for future ministers, not historians. Needless to say, Early Christian/Church history is NOT my future. However, it's always good to review the basics, and read the Gospel According to Thomas again.

Old Testament- I'm also required to have four semesters of biblical study for my degree, so I'm taking Old Testament in two parts, this semester and next. Biblical study is not exactly my strong suit, though I did take Hebrew Bible while at UNC. It was my first foray into my Religious Studies degree and was particularly intense, as it is taught by a professor who is known for his intensity. I will say this, though- I learned a lot that semester. This particular Introduction to the Hebrew Bible is taught by this wonderful (and hilarious) professor, Dr. Baden. He did his undergraduate degree at Yale where he was a member of the Wiffenpoofs, and he still utilizes his great stage presence. He says many funny things over the course of a week, and at a later date I'll remember to report back something he's said. We also meet twice a week for a fifty minute lecture (where I am furiously writing the entire time in order to get down all of his salient points), with one section meeting on Thursday mornings for another fifty minutes. That section is taught by Dong-hyuk, a Korean biblical studies student who is in his last year at Yale (he's been here for TEN years, going from a master's degree, through his PhD and all the way to post bacc work). This section is interesting because he has no qualms discussing faith claims in section and opening invites interpretation as one might use in a sermon. I'm very much not used to this kind of work, seeing as I come from an academic background to the study of religion, but it's an interesting exercise nevertheless.

Warrior Chants and Unquiet Spirits- what class is this, you may ask... first of all, it's taught by the academic dean, Dr. Emilie Townes, who is a social ethicist. Ethics is a field I have no experience in, but I signed up for the course because 1) it fulfills a lot of requirements of my degree, 2) it seemed like it could be a particularly salient intersection of my interests in social action and academic study and 3).... well.... Let's use an image: In Rogers and Hammerstein's The King and I, Victorian England-cultured Anna is just beginning her task of teaching the entire brood of the King of Siam. She decides to break the ice by singing the iconic song, "Getting to Know You." At the end of the film version, Deborah Kerr (the actress), sits her great hooped-skirt down on the ground, and the children end up sitting all around the hem. If Dean Townes is Anna, I want to be one of the Siamese children. She is this incredibly insightful and inspiring black woman originally from Durham, NC who is an ordained Baptist minister. She has beautiful locks halfway down her back and is a huge lover of all things Mac. To date, I've noted her MacBook, her iPad, her MacBook Air, and her iPhone. I don't always agree with her, but she's already provided incredible feedback on one of my paper's to help problematize my thinking. Besides, she assigned Pauli Murray, one of my North Carolina heroes, in the class. I knew it was meant to be...

Religious Freedom in US History- this is a class that I like more and more every week and so far is providing me a wealth of knowledge in a field I find fascinating. Essentially, the course charts the development of the separation of church and state in American consciousness, political life, and religious practices from the Puritans and their Massachusetts Bay Colony until today. What I've gained thus far is a basic knowledge of constitutional law of which I had very little prior knowledge. Professor Wenger, who teaches the course, is a colleague of my favorite professor of all time at UNC, Laurie Maffly-Kipp. Laurie is the bee's knees and recommended Dr. Wenger to me, so of course I took her advice. Dr. Wenger is teaching part two of Transition Moments next semester where we'll go from the Reformation to present-day. It was in this class that I turned in my first paper week before last and gave my first presentation of graduate school. I was incredibly nervous, but I think it went pretty well... we'll see...

Stay tuned for more exciting class notes!

Much love.

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