I’m teaching my first real graduate class this week (it’s in a one-week intensive format), and let me just tell you that I’ve been having major imposter syndrome (i.e., that voice in your head that tells you you’ve fooled everyone into believing you’re smarter than you actually are and that the truth is about to come out) all weekend and into today. Fortunately, these graduate students are kind and understanding and (since most of them are graduate student assistants) know something about feeling unprepared to teach, so today went pretty well.
I teach at a Christian university, and tonight I’m having my students write a discussion board post about how their Christian worldview impacts their scholarly career. (These are English M.A. students, many of whom will go on to careers in academia.) So I thought I, too, should do what I’m asking them to do, but since I don’t want to crash their creative party by becoming the awkward authoritative presence in the virtual room, I’m writing my thoughts here.
How my Christian worldview has impacted me as a writer and researcher. As Gilderoy Lockhart once said, “For full details, see my published works” (flashes award-winning smile). All I mean by that is that I won’t take the time to go into great detail here because I’ve already written about this at length in the introduction to my dissertation. In summary, I said that I’m more comfortable than a secular scholar would be with talking about authors as real personalities, not merely constructs, because I believe that God, a very real personality, inspired the Bible and had a clear authorial intent in mind when he did so. Therefore, even though I know that a degree, perhaps a large degree, of uncertainty is inevitable when we interpret texts (even when we interpret the Bible with our finite rational capabilities), it is imperative that we respect the text–any text–and its author and do our best to understand the intention, even if we don’t agree with it, and even if we see interpretive possibilities that may not have been in the author’s conscious thought. That’s not a popular view in literary criticism, but I think it’s a Christian view.
How my Christian worldview has impacted me as a teacher. In many ways, I hope! I hope my Christian worldview, along with the Holy Spirit inside me, has helped me to see the value of all students, to be patient with them, and to listen to them before I start telling them what I think they should think. (I don’t always succeed at all of this.) I know my Christian worldview has helped me to see teaching as a meaningful calling, not a frustrating but necessary side effect of being a scholar. My Christian worldview also has a direct impact on what I say in class, something I’ve been focusing on more deliberately in the past few years as I’ve come to realize that not all of my students a) are Christians and b) understand the Bible and their faith well. I teach English, not theology, but there are so many opportunities to speak Jesus’s name and the truth of the gospel in my classes, whether we’re looking at the triumph of grace over law in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or the resurrection symbolism in Much Ado about Nothing. (A lot of the depressing short stories I assigned in English 102 were great purely for their clear demonstration of how badly sin has messed up our world.)
There it is, my discussion board post. I’ve written twice as much as I asked my students to write, but we teachers are known for being a bit long-winded. 😉
Sometimes there’s so much Harry Potter stuff going on, I have to make a list to keep it all straight.
The illustrated edition of Chamber of Secrets was released very recently, but I just finally got around to reading the illustrated Sorcerer’s Stone. Jim Kay’s illustrations are gorgeous, highly detailed (you can stare at the Hogwarts interiors for hours), sometimes surprising (Hagrid dresses like a biker–which makes sense since we first see him on a motorcycle, but I never thought of it!), and occasionally even startling (Snape’s creepy eyes!). I’m looking forward to seeing how he approaches memorable book 2 characters like Gilderoy Lockhart and the basilisk, and I’m really curious as to whether the ratio of pictures to text will continue to be similar as the books get massive.
Tomorrow is the first day of November, which is release month for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! I realize that Harry Potter is not going to be in this movie, nor any of our beloved characters (I hear Dumbledore is namedropped, but I think that’s about the extent of it), but I’m really excited about getting back into the Wizarding world. This is the first movie for which J. K. Rowling has actually written the screenplay, which means, if nothing else, that it’s going to be lush with detail. It also helps that Eddie Redmayne is beautiful. But the element of this film I may be looking forward to the most is the fact that there’s a major character who’s non-magical. What will it mean for HP fandom that people like us are now part of the story? I will be blogging about this, no doubt.
With all the publishing action happening this year, Harry Potter festivals seem to be back on the rise. I attended one this past Saturday in Scottsville, a very small town in central Virginia that for three years running has transformed its (also very small) downtown business district into Hogsmeade. Lines were long at places like Honeydukes (normally a bookstore and coffee shop) and Ollivander’s (normally a tattoo and massage parlor), but in other establishments, it was easy to duck inside, take in the fabulously creative displays (I loved the hand-lettered envelopes at the owl post location) and perhaps contribute to the local economy by making a purchase (I bought two beeswax taper candles at the owl post place, which in its Muggle life is a beekeeping supply shop). Perhaps the most fun part of the festival (other than getting a signed photo of Gilderoy Lockhart at Flourish and Blotts–that guy was fabulous) was the people-watching. I saw some fantastic costumes (Moaning Myrtle, the painting of Sirius Black’s mother, a trio of house-elves) and a lot of fairly obscure fan t-shirts–the kind you can’t just impulsively buy at Target. I hope to return to this festival next year, and I also hope the weather will be more seasonally appropriate. It was about 80 degrees on Saturday, and I was dressed as Professor Trelawney. There was a lot of fabric draped over and around me.
Today is Halloween. That means that it’s the anniversary of Lily and James Potter’s tragic death (I saw their gravestone in Scottsville, too–there was a lovely old church with the Godric’s Hollow graveyard recreated outside), as well as of the baby Harry Potter’s amazing, unlikely defeat of Voldemort. Halloween is also a good day to have a huge feast with live bats swooping overhead (that always seems unsanitary to me)…and a good day for…wait for it…a TROLL IN THE DUNGEON! Thought you ought to know.