Christmas Playlist Gifting #2

December 21st, 2014

Because Christmas Music is my favorite aspect of the Christmas season and because I am not gifted with the gift of loving gift giving (my love languages tend more towards time and words), I’ve enjoyed making this (and this) free downloadable Christmas playlist. I’ll make some more next year, as curating Christmas playlists is my favorite form of PhD procrastination.

Here are 29 songs for when you’re unpacking those alluminum Chrsitmas light reflectors, faded fragile glass balls, mouldering felt reindeer, and pretending your iPod docket is a wooden wireless. “Toast of Christmas Past”–for when you feel nostalgic for a time you likely never lived through.

Click Here to Download

Toast of Xmas Past

Posted in History, Lists, Music, Pop Culture

“What Yankee Candle Means To Me” Episode 19: The 3 Colors of Christmas

December 14th, 2014

Posted in Scotland, Yankee Candle

Ding Dong Merrily! Music Gifting

December 12th, 2014

Yeah- I know. Where’s my blog? In my brain. Not on my bulletin board. To everything a season. And though the past two years haven’t quite been a consistent blogging season, it is right now the season of CHRISSSSSSSSSTMAAAAAAAAAAAAS!

I’ve got a few thematic playlists I would like to gift, but I’ll start with just one for now. Maybe another for this year, or maybe I’ll keep with my pattern of long gaps between things and gift another next year.

Here’s an atmospheric Christmas playlist for when you find yourself wandering medieval alleyways, frosted mossy paths between old thorn trees, or standing by ruins of Scottish cathedtrals. Or, if you don’t get to do those things everyday (heh heh heh made ya jealous) you can feel like you are doing those things. Here’s some music to drink hot spiced wine to.

Blithe Yule and Haud Hogmanay to you all!

Click Here to Download


Posted in Anglophilia, Lists, Music, Scotland, St Andrews

What Happens When Doing A PhD Dramatically Shrinks Your Social And Work Spheres…

May 19th, 2014

On May 7, something I have been looking forward to for over a year finally happened. The exciting moment came quietly, sneakily, while I was working at my desk, but the months and months of anticipation beforehand included careful monitoring, betting, wishing, and waiting.
So now I celebrate:

The Day That A Song Finally Surpassed The ‘Qarth” Track From The “Game of Thrones Season 2” Soundtrack As The Most Played Item In My iTunes.


Some background:
In April 2012, my AMAZING friend-family, family, and colleagues secretly banded together to get me a new computer. I still haven’t fully recovered from this experience, and I’m thankful everyday for this MacBook Pro that is my research center, movie theater, phone and CD player. It is the most treasured and most used gift I’ve ever received or may ever receive.

Soundtrack_Season_1But in the process of transferring my music from my dying 2006 MacBook, (did I accidentally create a new apple id? Forget my password? Use my external hard drive wrong? I have no idea), all the play counts reset in my iTunes. I’d never paid attention to them before, so starting at zero for everything escaped my notice. Until…you see, at the same time that I switched everything over to my new computer and new iTunes, I decided to read the Game of Thrones series, which naturally meant purchasing the soundtracks to listen to while I read. So those two short albums were played A LOT while I read the 4000+ pages of the current 5 books (and also while we played D&D that summer). So within six weeks of my iTunes reset, “Game of Thrones” completely dominated the play counts of my 20-day-long music library.

gameofthronesseason2soundtrack[Interestingly, the day I noticed the imbalance was when I was working a Town Hall Seattle event with George R. R. Martin and we decided to play the soundtracks in the auditorium beforehand using my computer. When the sound tech looked at my play count, he gave me a semi-accusing look that said, ‘Geeeeez, somebody lacks diversity in their music tastes” and though I tried to explain the situation, the damage was done.]

Moving on then to Scotland, I thought I could outsmart the play counts by only listening to the soundtracks on my iPod while I read. Two months into that plan, I realized that iTunes updated iPod plays as well. Nyooooooo!!

So I resigned myself to a long waiting process of watching to see which songs would eventually overtake the “Game of Thrones” soundtracks, particularly ‘Qarth” which somehow sored above the other GoT songs by a massive lead. At the time I really started taking notice, ‘Qarth’ had a 15 play-count advance over the rest of my iTunes library. That was in October of 2012.

So how, you ask, did it take a year and a half for a song to get played 16 times to finally outstrip ‘Qarth’? BECAUSE my precisely honed seasonal playlisting means most songs only get played for 2-4 months out of the year. Therefore, to really get traction, a song had to be in more than one season-playlist.

HBP_SoundtrackSo which albums have the most seasonal coverage? While the song leader for a long time was Simone Dinnerstein’s performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variation #28, the “Harry Potter” soundtracks started gaining ground once they made their way into Christmas as well as other narratively appropriate seasons. Turns out “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” has tracks in my winter, spring, summer, fall and Christmas playlists.

For months I thought “Farewell Aragog” would be the first song to hit 49 plays. But late in the game, “When Ginny Kissed Harry” strode out in front and hit “49” just after 6pm on May 7th. (And ironically, while I was typing this blog post, the second runner up, “French Suite No. 5 in G Major VI” hit 49 as well, as reflected in the larger image below).

So now the next exciting goal is to see “Game of Thrones” bypassed by enough tracks to no longer be listed in the Top 25 plays, as right now they still have a strong presence. Of course it’s nothing against those albums. They’re great. I just don’t like that my iTunes statistics don’t reflect what I really listen to. I give it till 2016 for my iTunes to really look like what it sounds like.

And that’s how my obsessive-compulsive tendencies are expressing themselves now that I don’t have a bar to organize or house-managing schedule to keep.

*addiitonal note- “Abraham’s Daughter” from “The Hunger Games” has a super high playcount as well because I’ve lectured on it and am writing a paper about it right now. And I like it.

itunes full

Posted in Books, intertextuality, Lists, Music, Pop Culture, Scotland, Seattle

What Yankee Candle Means To Me: 18

May 15th, 2014

I may not able to be in full year-round candle sensory mode, but thanks to video prompts from Kim and Jonathan and Kim again, here’s an update. Stuff that matters…pass it on.

Posted in Pop Culture, Yankee Candle

On Dropping the ‘Mrs’ From Gaskell

April 19th, 2014

Mary BartonMary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve been meaning to get to ‘Mary Barton’ for some time, mainly, because when Charlotte Bronte read it, she made changes to ‘Shirley’, which she was in the midst of writing, so that it did not cover too much of the same territory. I was curious to see how many of Shirley’s themes I would recognise, but also, to read for myself the book that Bronte respected enough to make sure she didnt compete, conflict or conflate with it.

I also find that reading ‘Mary Barton’ marks the fact that I’ve now pretty much accidentally read all of Gaskell’s novels except ‘North & South’- the one everyone reads. I’ll get there eventually. But looking back at my first read of Gaskell six years years ago (Wives & Daughters) when I and most readers and scholars still thought of her only as Mrs Gaskell, Bronte’s buddy and biographer, its incredible to think I was ever prejudiced by the ‘conservative’ and ‘genteel’ banner so consistently hung over “Mrs” Gaskell until recent years. She dives into topics that got her into hot water, and underlined her countercultural opinions with empathetic characters and realistic settings. In ‘Mary Barton’ she invites her readers to personally identify with prostitutes, murderers, alcholics, obliviously self-indulgent middle class families, and distraught mill workers. But what actually surprised me most in this, Gaskell’s first novel, was the recurring theme of allowing grief to be expressed. Unlike many of the Victorian novels I’ve been spending time with (ahem, Charlotte Yonge), Gaskell does not praise the fortutide of widowers who refuse to let their children see their sorrow or applaud the kindness of friends who cunningly distract a bereaved child by not letting them speak of their loss. Instead, Gaskell repeatedly asserts the value of letting a heart find relief in tears and in confession. She even at one point turns to the reader to condemn the unhelpful platitudes offered in times of loss: “Of all the trite, worn-out hollow mockeries of comfort that were ever uttered by people who will not take the trouble of sympathizing with others, the one i dislike the most is the exhortation not to grieve over an event, ‘for it cannot be helped.’ Do you think if i could help it, I would sit still with folded hands, content to mourn? do you not beleive that as long as hope remained i would be up and doing? I mourn because what has occurred cannot be helped. The reason you give me for not grieving, is the very and sole reason of my grief.”

It’s moments like this that I hear Gaskell’s conviction about the importance of compassion, empathy and their actualisation in human relationships. The fact that Gaskell took to writing this novel as a way to cope through the grief over the death of her son, indicates to me why this passage burns so true. Gaskell’s advocacy for active compassion as means of social change is what makes her read quite modern to my eyes, despite whatever early Victorian middle-class blindspots she no doubt exhibits. Her striving toward honesty in her writing and her implicit call for readers to live honestly in response to the world they see around them, is, I beleive, one of the main reasons Gaskell is finally being giving her place alongside Geroge Elliot, the Brontes, and Jane Austen, as a formative female voice of the nineteenth century. I’m glad to have stumbled onto her rennaissance these past few years.

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Posted in Anglophilia, Books, History, Psychology/Being Human

The Daisy Chain or Trial by Tractarian Fiction

April 8th, 2014

The Daisy Chain, Or, Aspirations: A Family ChronicleThe Daisy Chain, Or, Aspirations: A Family Chronicle by Charlotte Mary Yonge
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I only got half way through, but that was both as far as I could handle and as far as I needed. My two reasons for finally sitting down with a Charlotte Yonge text were 1) she’s important to my research so I wanted to see for myself how she narratively expressed her sacramental theology instead of just reading quotes that say she did, and 2) I read in a footnote that “The Daisy Chain” was written in response to “Jane Eyre” so I wanted to see how that was expressed. 250 pages in was far enough to see how she embodies sacramental values of baptism, confirmation, etc- so I didn’t need to go much farther to grasp her style. But half way in I still couldnt see how, other than being a polemic against personal ambition, this was a religious response novel to “Jane Eyre”. I’m still researching that, but at the point in the novel where a 13 year old boy is morbidly concerned over the state of his salvation when he’s forbidden from Confirmation beause of a prank he pulled on his sister- I had to make a strategic research choice to put down the book and follow better leads. It’s extrememly taxing to read a novel about morally upright children who berate themselves for not being morally upright enough. I know that compared to the religious novels which preceded Yonge’s, her books feature fleshed out/semi-realistic characters rather than unabiguously good or evil stick figures, but as scholars other than myself have pointed out, this genre of religious domestic fiction so directly responds to Victorian concerns that its nearly unpalatable to a modern reader, regardless of one’s theology. It’s not poorly written, just poor fiction compared to what was evolving in the mid-nineteenth century. (Though I’ll confess, Yonge’s characters had me unwittingly subjecting myself to moral self-reflection at times. She really knows how to get to you, and I applaud her for that). I respect Yonge’s proflific literary output and her influential contextualization of her spiritual and social values. I just disagree with too many of those values to find these texts galvinizing in any lasting way or compelling in any literary way. But at least I undertand her a bit better now.

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Posted in Anglophilia, Books, Cultural Shifts, History, St Andrews, theology

The Search For Hagrid’s Hut or How Seven Muggles Accidentally Stumbled Onto Hogwarts Grounds

January 18th, 2014



I’m not sure at what point last year I decided to research where in Scotland the scenes around Hagrid’s Hut from Prisoner of Azkaban were filmed or how I went about that research, but for about a year now, I’ve had an apple sticky note on my computer desktop saying “I want to visit Clachaig Gully in Glencoe.” My desire to visit this location did not have so much to do with the fact that “ohhhhh a movie happened here!” but more with the fact that given the amount of time I’ve spent watching PoA and the other HP films that use footage from the area, paired with the fact that for over two years, I’ve been using those shots as my computer background, screensaver, and iPhone wallpaper, I have really gotten to know those hills and mountains. Why not go meet them in person? When it came to choosing a hike for a day in the Highlands, the fact that the scenes were shot in Glencoe, one of the most heart-stoppingly beautiful landscapes on earth, it didn’t seem too ridiculous to search for a way to get to the view I’ve been taking in for a decade.
I was fortunate when a friend offered to drive a gang of us out for a day trip to the Highlands, that not only was the place I wanted to go very easy to get to, (and that people were willing to go along with my suggestion), but the location is an accessible part of a stunning circuit walk with well-marked paths, historical markers, and available parking.

SO, with my limited internet-based research, we headed to Clachaig Gully, via the walking path around An Torr and up to Signal Rock. And if I was in any way concerned that hiking in the Highlands in January was not the greatest idea, those concerns were emphatically countered by the fact that not only were the hills quadrupled in splendor by being topped with snow, but the leafless winter trees meant we had 75% more visibility throughout. And the baked-bread brownness of the winter terrain was still flush with glowing green springy mosses and ferns. It was wonderful to behold.

And at the end of our meandering journey, we were facing the shoot location. Or, rather, about 4 minutes up the road from the shooting location. My explanation for why I couldn’t quite convince myself that we weren’t quite at the right spot is simple. We were muggles and had walked right up to the Hogwarts doorstep so were repelled magically and subconsciously from going further. We didn’t get right to Hagrid’s Hut but instead, unknowingly stood on Hogwart’s doorstep. [Visual proof later in this post]

But we were clearly in the same terrain and same view of the location I’d been aiming for, so I count it as a success. I finally got to meet the mountains that have been keeping me company for so long. Let me introduce them to you: [okay- it was extremely difficult to find the names of these hills and peaks as most climbers only post pictures from the top of what they climbed, not nice profile shots from the valley- so I heartily welcome any corrections – but here’s my best attempt.]

Meall Mor

meall mor

Meall Mor gets lots of screen time, as it sits directly behind Hagrid’s Hut, facing opposite Hogwarts. It’s easy to spot the almost right angle jag in its top center, and spotty strips of trees on the lower right. The gentle bumps on the left side of the peak highlight it as well.




You can see it from the Whomping Willow too…



meall mor 2

And Aragog’s burial place overlooks it.



Next is Aonach a Dubh a Ghlinnie, which sits beyond An t-Srōn.  These two have the honor of being the main view behind the Hogwarts bridge. They’re in the picture at the top of this post as well. You can recognize Aonach a Dubh a Ghlinnie mostly by its Christmas pudding roundness and the dark crescent jag that sits on its front right face. Anytime you can see Aonach a Dubh a Ghlinnie, you can generally see the lower right slope of An t-Srōn, with its marked rivulets where water has run down.

ghlinnie 4





An t-Srōn gets featured quite a lot. The mountain to its left is Aonach Dubh (not to be confused with Aonach a Dubh Ghlinnie). An t-Srōn is most recognizable by the big pebbly bumps on its lower left slope and the large rivulet that runs down its center.

an t sron w aonach




an t-sorn 1


And by the Whomping Willow, you can see where they’ve added the Black Lake.


Majestic Aonach Dubh is often obscured in shots and looks smaller without snow. Its face is much more ragged and rocky then the closer hills. I also think it gets edited and stretched sometimes through CGI, but you can still spot it here and there.

aonach dubh

Here’s a good shot.


And here Aonach Dubh is silhouetted on the far right


And what’s that on the left? Yeah. Gigantic Hogwarts Castle. Compare the low hillside on the left. We were looking right at the Castle but couldn’t see it.


aonach dubh 2

And the part of Clachaig Gully we were standing on and where the sets were placed is Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, the western summit of the Aonach Eagach.

sgorr nam


Again, we were a few minutes from the actual site, so next time I’ll walk down the road a bit. Here’s a Googlemaps image of the actual spot and an image from when it was being filmed.


google hagrids


Another Googlemap image where you can see the peak of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (and invisible Hogwarts)

google sideshot

I hope next time to get some shots from higher up, maybe from where the Standing Stones would have been, so I can see Torren Lochan, which is the body of water you can often see below to the right of Hagrid’s Hut. I will definitely be going back as it was one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve been on-not long, not strenuous at all, but full of surprises and breathtaking views. And it doesn’t hurt that this is the backdrop of one of my top five favorite films of all time, and a film/book that inspired my most recent tattoo and which I’ve published about. So yes, I’m a little attached.

HPPoA2382 crop

Posted in Books, Film, intertextuality, Scotland

The List 2013

January 11th, 2014

It’s my 8th year tracking what films I watch over the course of the year. (Yes, doing a PhD has significantly lessened my brain space for blogging, but my film lists persist). [2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012]. I’ve stopped tracking the hours spent viewing film and television, as I seem to average about 1,000 hours a year. But for 2014 I’m finally going to start tracking who I watch films with. Would love to know who was my most-movies-watched partner for 2013.

As a paradigm refresher, here’s what my ‘Best Of’ and ‘Most Disappointing” mean. First of all, I only include films that I viewed within the calendar year, so there are great films I’ve missed in the theater or that might not have come out in the UK yet that don’t get to be on the list. Additionally, I’ve been able to see a lot of live theatre broadcasts, but as they are not films, they don’t count towards “Bests” (though the RSC’s Richard II might have gotten my life back on track, so it’s a Best on some kind of list).

Best“ means the overall film experience, not necessarily what was the best film. Films that make it into this category tend to be ones that stayed with me once I left the theater or seemed to alter my physical chemistry in some way as I watched. Key elements tend to be surprise, awe, delight, or cathartic pathos. (I included some posters of runner-ups).

Most Disappointing” means it fell significantly short of my expectations, which means I had hopeful expectations to begin with. Hence why ‘A Good Day To Die Hard’ can be tremendously awful but not make the list.

Series viewings are any shows I watched in completion within the calendar year. Favorites are chosen from shows I’d never seen before. Also, I tend to put mini-series in the film category since they are one-time projects, not open-ended series, (otherwise, Parade’s End would definitely be in the Bests list).

before-midnight-posterBest of 2013

Before Midnight
Wreck-It Ralph
The Great Gatsby
Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Thor 2: The Dark World

Most Disappointing of 2013

The World’s End
Now You See Me
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Total Films: 187 (Lowest number since 2009)

uk-poster-for-wreck-it-ralph-plays-ups-the-arcade-action-115852-00-470-75Total Series: 59

Big Screen Viewings: 35 (Noted by ‘[ ]’ )

Most Watched Films of 2013
Harry Potter 5: Order of the Phoenix
Star Trek (2009): [This one was a surprise]

[ ] Wreck-It Ralph
[ ] Hunger Games: Catching Fire
[ ] Les Miserables
[ ] Monsters U
Beasts of the Southern Wild
I Heart Huckabees
Muppets Christmas Carol
LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring (Started New Years marathon a night early…)
Star Wars IV: A New Hope
Star Wars V: Empire Strikes Back
Harry Potter 1: Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter 2: Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter 3: Prisoner of Azkaban

115276Month of Most Viewings: December, 33 films

Favorite First-View Series
(In Order of Original Airing)
Orange Is The New Black
My Mad Fat Diary
Orphan Black
Friday Night Dinner
Star Trek: Enterprise

The List 2013: Films

Star Wars IV A New Hope
The Breakfast Club
Say Anything
Grosse Pointe Blank
The Guard
Roman Holiday
hunger-games-catching-fire-imax-poster-largeThe Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
3:10 To Yuma (2007)
[ ] Les Miserables
Woman in Black
Sherlok Holmes (2009)
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
The Hunger Games
[ ] Les Miserables
Silver Linings Playbook
The Sound of Music
Bridge on the River Kwai
Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Star Trek (2009)
Strictly Ballroom
Step Up
21 Jump Street
Robin Hood: Men in Tights
originalHarry Potter 8: Deathly Hallows Part 2
[ ] Lincoln
Top Hat
Bringing Up Baby
[ ] Wreck-It Ralph
Harry Potter 1: Sorcerer’s Stone
Quo Vadis
Gone With The Wind
[ ] A Good Day To Die Hard
[ ] Zero Dark Thirty
[ ] Wreck-It Ralph
[ ] Oz The Great and Powerful
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)
Harry Potter 2: Chamber of Secrets
Shutter Island
War Games
Paris, Texas
[ ] Oblivion
[ ] Iron Man Three
The Prestige
2 Days in Paris
orange-is-the-new-black-poster[ ] Star Trek: Into Darkness
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
Naked Gun
Murder By Numbers
I Heart Huckabees
Galaxy Quest
Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift
The Little Mermaid
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The 39 Steps (2007)
City Slickers
[ ] The Great Gatsby
Withnail & I
Training Day
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
poster[ ] National Theatre Live: The Audience
Napolean Dynamite
[ ] Man of Steel
Gregory’s Girl
Monsters Inc.
Harry Potter 5: Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter 6: Half-Blood Prince
The Incredibles
Mulholland Drive
A Fistfull of Dollars
Bull Durham
[ ] Now You See Me
Harry Potter 3: Prisoner of Azkaban
The Royal Tenenbaums
The Life Aquatic
LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring
LOTR: The Two Towers
LOTR: The Return of the King
For a Few Dollars More
orphanblackposter1[ ] Much Ado About Nothing (2013)
[ ] Before Midnight
[ ] Monsters U
Bottle Rocket
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Muppet’s Treasure Island
[ ] National Theatre Live: Macbeth from the Manchester Intl Festival
[ ] Pacific Rim
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I Heart Huckabees
[ ] The World’s End
[ ] Monsters U
Despicable Me
The Secret of Roan Inish
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The Last Starfighter
A Bug’s Life
A Room With A View
fridaynightdinnerStar Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
[ ] Despicable Me 2
[ ] The Heat
Mad Max
Parade’s End
Blade Runner
Best in Show
Harry Potter 5: Order of the Phoenix
Moonrise Kingdom
Harry Potter 4: Goblet of Fire
Midnight in Paris
Harry Potter 7: Deathly Hallows Part 1
[ ] About Time
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Beasts of the Southern Wild
North & South
[ ] Blue Jasmine
[ ] Enough Said
Cool Hand Luke
EnterprisePoster[ ] Thor 2: The Dark World
[ ] Gravity
[ ] RSC Live: Richard II
Harry Potter 5: Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter 2: Chamber of Secrets
[ ] Hunger Games: Catching Fire
[ ] Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Family Stone
[ ] Muppets Christmas Carol
[ ] Frozen
Little Women
The Party
Barry Lyndon
Never Let Me Go
The Muppets (2011)
White Christmas
Home Alone
Harry Potter 3: Prisoner of Azkaban
Mary Poppins
Robin Hood (1973)
The Young Victoria
[ ] Saving Mr. Banks
Star Trek (2009)
The_Heat_posterNational Lampoon: Christmas Vacation
Bridget Jones’ Diary
Horton Hears a Who
Peter Pan (2003)
Singing in the Rain
Muppets Christmas Carol
Harry Potter 1: Sorcerer’s Stone
A Christmas Story
[ ] The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Carry On At Your Convenience
Star Wars IV: A New Hope
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Waiting For Guffman
Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring

The List 2013: Series

Monsters-University-Movie-PosterSummer Heights High: 1
Twin Peaks: 1
Northern Exposure: 1
Friday Night Dinner: 1
Friday Night Dinner: 2
Star Trek Voyager: 1
Hyperdrive: 2
Twin Peaks [Laura Palmer story arc]: 2
My Mad Fat Diary: 1
Utopia: 1
Extras: 1
In The Flesh: 1
The X-Files: 1
Star Trek Voyager: 2
Extras: 2
Jonathan Creek: 1
Star Trek Voyager: 3
The X-Files: 2
Arrested Development: 4
Star Trek Voyager: 4
Whites: 1
enough-said-posterGame of Thrones: 3
Mad Men: 5
New Girl: 2
Star Trek Voyager: 5
Call the Midwife: 1
True Blood: 4
Sex and the City: 1
Star Trek Voyager: 6
Mad Men: 6
Orange is the New Black: 1
Modern Family: 4
Parks & Rec: 5
Who Do You Think You Are?: 8
Star Trek Voyager: 7
Slings & Arrows: 1
Who Do You Think You Are?: 9
True Blood: 5
Orphan Black: 1
Star Trek Enterprise: 1
Breaking Bad: 1
The Office (USA): 9
much-ado-about-nothing_612x907Breaking Bad: 2
Slings & Arrows: 2
Slings & Arrows: 3
Northern Exposure: 2
Star Trek Enterprise: 2
Northern Exposure: 3
Family Ties: 2
Northern Exposure: 4
Northern Exposure: 5
Family Ties: 3
Northern Exposure: 6
Family Ties: 4
Family Ties: 5
Family Ties: 6
Star Trek Enterprise: 3
Family Ties: 7

Posted in Film, Lists, Pop Culture, Television

The Sadness of Reading an Old Book That Isn’t Old-Enough

September 11th, 2013

Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in ReligionWomanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion by Carol P. Christ
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This text had been low on my Feminist Theology To-Reads simply because it was so often quoted since that I thought it might be redundant to read. But I kept feeling nudged to sit down with it on its own terms instead of others’ summaries. My reading of it is strangely bittersweet.

As one of the foundational feminist theological texts, and the collection that brought wider attention to the article written by Valerie Saiving in 1960, widely considered to be feminist theology’s launch, Womanspirit Rising (1979) is an outstanding collection of questions, challenges, and proposals emerging from what was essentially the first decade of feminist theology. Reading it, I was struck by the fact that it was published the year I was born. As I sat reading the copy from my university library, (purchased 6th February, 1984 according to the bookplate), a book physically as old as I am, I couldn’t help lingering on the first page of library stamps dating from the pre-digital checkout era. I found myself wondering whether these mystery book borrowers had the book assigned to them for a class or not. Were they researching undergrad papers? MLitt dissertations? Their PhD theses? Or did the book get discovered on the shelf and perused out of curiosity of the borrowers, sought out to address personal wrestling/hope/doubt? How many of these stamps are men who checked out the book, or has this copy only been held by women readers?

This is where my thoughts turned as I read the articles within, some very familiar to me already, and some entirely new. I was astounded by Phyllis Trible’s re-reading of Eve and Adam’s creation. How had I never encountered this before? It is the most straight-forward, lucid, original language and context-based interpretation of Genesis 2-3 I’ve ever read, and it completely deconstructs the myth of gender hierarchy as divinely ordained, or even present at all. It should be required reading in OT survey courses. [And herein lies a larger issue I don’t quite touch on, which is that so many of the theories and interpretations here that are over thirty years old STILL have not been widely disseminated or integrated into church practice and teaching.]

And there are many other gems in here, as well as some historiographically interesting pieces about the woman’s movement. But why then was my reading bittersweet? There’s my initial struggle which I’ve felt since beginning my PhD research as a feminist theologian that no matter what, I keep having to go back to resources that are 30 years old. It’s hard not to look at the evidence and ask “Did feminist theology peak at its inception?” “Where is the new authoritative work?” I don’t mean to say there isn’t any new work, which would be ridiculous, but simply that I’ve been surprised how often I am spending my time reading texts from the 70’s and 80’s in order to address current issues. Part of this is just due to the fact that entering any discipline means getting a strong foundation and these are the foundational sources, but I still catch myself sighing when I discover yet another text from 1985 that I should probably read if I’m going to call myself a feminist theologian of any salt.

So there’s that concern: a perceived dearth of new feminist theological material in the past 15 years compared to its beginning. But that highlights another humbling fact, which I already named in passing; feminist theology is only 40 years old. In the history of the study of theology, I’m participating in a discipline that is younger than my parents. That’s a couple centuries/millennia behind the dominant theological discourses. So should I be glad that my entire lifespan is encapsulated within the birth of feminist theology? Frankly, no. Despite my slight bemoaning of always having to go back to the foundational texts of the 70’s and 80’s, I feel to some extant a righteous anger that my foundational texts are ONLY from the 1970’s and not from the 1270’s. That feminist theology is barely older than I am, brings home the sorrow of generations of missing contributors. I am part of the first fruits of the birthing generation of feminist theology, and I feel terrified at the responsibility of questioning and speaking on behalf of so many silenced sisters since the start of humanity’s efforts to articulate in writing their perception of relationship to the Divine. How feeble and trite my ideas that I can freely espouse and publish seem when compared to all the knowledge, experience, and revelation of generations of women forbidden the opportunity to preach, debate, or transform community spiritual life with their written words. How costly my every word seems when added up to the missing words that precede them.

And yet the stamps in this 1979 feminist reader in religion, and the words written within, remind me why I do have every right to speak- and why so many more words are needed still.

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Posted in Books, Cultural Shifts, History, theology