Novak (novak) wrote,

Theological Notebook/Personal: New Student Excitement; Faculty Hanging; Superman in Illinois

It's been a busy week, with the semester really getting going after the interruption Friday through Monday/Labor Day of Tropical Storm Lee. My MWF Catholicism classes in particular had had their rhythms quite disrupted, so it's felt good to start to get back into some kind of groove the last few days. One of our fabulous majors, a guy named Chris that I had in last fall's Catholicism course and who switched over from Jazz Studies, is taking my Jesus course this semester, but also wanted to do something a little more specifically in systematic theology, and so he's doing an independent study with me in 20th Century Systematic Theology. So we're basically meeting over dinner each week after my second section of the Jesus course, which he's in, and which gets over at 6:10pm. Since I have to eat anyway, I'm not losing too much in the way of "clock time" for research and from the extra work of application-writing. We had a cool first session last night, then, talking through the inheritance of 19th century theology, some of the effects of Eurocentric thinking and how that view of culture was also affecting some of European theology, talking more about Ernst Troeltsch (1865-23) than anyone else. So that's an extra dash of fun for me this semester.

My department chair, Tim, came into my office today to talk a bit about scheduling for the spring semester, and whether was I had sketched out for this independent study/directed readings course would actually be something I could just switch into one of our standard historical-sequence courses for our majors, "Modern Christian Thought," following "Early" and "Medieval" Christian Thought courses. What I'm doing right now is really more limited to the 20th century, which is closer to a different course on our books, and is more focused on the nature of systematic theology itself, but talking it over with Tim actually helped me clarify for my own thinking some of the distinctions of what the different courses can offer. The Modern Christian Thought course, which I will probably do in the spring, then, has to start much earlier. In fact, I'll have to talk that over with Denis Janz, our Medieval/Reformation specialist, in order to see how he finishes up his Medieval Christian Thought course: I know he's doing a distinct Reformation course this semester, too, but that's not part of this sequence for majors, and so I'll be curious to see where he ends his Medieval survey, because you can very easily read the Renaissance and Reformation period as a sort of culmination or climax of the medieval world as much as you can read them as opening movements in Modernity. The more he happens to cover of that, the more I can build on that and turn my attention to the gazillion other important and influential moments and movements involved in something as wide as "Modern Christian Thought": the consolidation of the Reformation, the Catholic Reformation, the Baroque period, the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Pietism, German Idealism, reaction movements to these, and then all the fun I'm exploring in the 20th century.

But the coolest thing would be having a small class composed entirely of majors and minors, where I'm not having to do remedial stuff at the beginning. ("What do we mean by 'God'?" took up much of my Catholicism class today, prior to really getting into the specifics of our more historical readings on the idea of God that we'll get to further down the line.) Having students who already get the basics, especially of a discipline like Theology, which has been so excised from the educational agenda (and thus frequently causes panic in students who are confronted with a discipline that they haven't learned how to be successful in over several years of primary and secondary education), and who are entirely self-motivated for such a course – all that will be a joy. I had a student today, a very engaged and talkative guy named Richard who is from Venezuela originally, who had the same sort of excited discovery I've seen in students before, of how deep, nuanced and rational Theology itself actually is, when all they've ever before encountered was "religious education." I especially always remember my friend Meg, an undergraduate at Marquette who was from an unchurched background and very nervous about having to take Theology requirements, and who I had steered toward Professor Del Colle for her Introduction To Theology course, stopping me on the sidewalk between Raynor Library and Coughlin Hall by the end of her first week, and almost raving in excitement about how fascinating Theology was, and "why aren't people discussing this stuff all the time?!" Richard was even interested in doing a bit of extra "orienting" reading, and I pointed him toward an article on "Theology as Knowledge" that I used to raise these questions with my Marquette Introduction To Theology students. So today had reminders of just how exciting an educational experience this can all be.

I got together with Mari and Barbra over at Terri's last night, after my session with Chris, to catch the second half of the New Orleans/Green Bay game, which soured Terri a bit in the Saints being pretty much dominated throughout by the Packers. I don't pay much attention to pro football, and without tenure my loyalties to New Orleans are a bit tentative, as well as knowing how many family members I have who are quite devoted to the Packers, and so I couldn't be too caught up in either side. But it was a chance to just hang out with one another for a while, talking about pretty much anything other than football. I'm tentatively going to check out Saint Joe's Bar with Barbra tomorrow, which is said to be blissfully smoke-free, and in-between where the two of us live, and so that'll be a chance to get to know her a bit better, too.

I have to admit that I've also kept an eye on some favourite geekery of mine, especially last weekend during the long, glum rain-imprisonment of Storm Lee. This is the first year – holy cow! since I started college! – that I have no sci-fi program returning on television. Starting with Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Star Trek franchise alone kept me entertained into the new millennium, and that was augmented with the brilliant re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, which became the thriller cornerstone group activity of the grad student-and-spouses regular Friday "Geek Night" gatherings. And, of course, the longest-running science-fiction series in American history, the DC Universe television imagining of the life of young Clark Kent, Smallville, ended its ten-year run this past May. And so, I suddenly realize, I've got nothing on that agenda this year. I don't really watch much television, but I always had something in that vein as a weekly confection. Strange not to have such, now that I think of it.

And perhaps partially because of that, I have been watching news of the filming of Man of Steel, Warner Brothers' reboot of the Superman franchise, with some interest. Of course, I can't help but also be caught up by interest in the sheer geography of the filming effort, since it's being filmed in and outside of Chicago. Since the life and formation of Clark Kent is a very Midwestern kind of mythology, and as a Midwestern-formed guy myself, that story has always resonated with me in its best tellings. My hometown of Oregon, Illinois, is getting too far into the woods and low hills of northwestern Illinois to visually work as Smallville, Kansas, but I was keenly interested to see notes about the filming of the new movie's Smallville scenes in and around Plano, Illinois, which is just beyond (or just beginning to be touched by) the Chicagoland urban sprawl. Mostly, I've been following this on On Location Vacations, a website I learned to consult this last year when the tail end of Green Lantern was being filmed in New Orleans, and whenever I am curious about what film crew has set up in Audubon Park across from the University, which is not an infrequent occurrence.

If I had been in Illinois at the end of the summer, I would have loved to have sneaked down to try to eyeball some of the Smallville shooting. I couldn't help but notice that the Kent farm was just down the road from where Jenny Patton now lives, and so I find myself kind of pleased that the Midwestern plains iconography I grew up around, is actually being used in this particular movie production. I see that now the website has just posted notes on where more "Metropolis" scenes of the film will be shot over these coming days in Chicago, which would also make for a fun field trip if I weren't far from my native state:
Third Act Pictures is preparing the area for some upcoming filming with the full cooperation of the Mayor’s Office, The Illinois Film Office, The Chicago Film Office and the Chicago Police Department. The City has issued street parking permits for their production vehicles. For this reason there will be NO PARKING on the following streets:

Beginning 7am Saturday, September 10th to 7pm Tuesday, September 13th
South side of Adams from Canal to Clinton
East side of Clinton from Adams to Jackson

Beginning 5pm Tuesday, September 13th to 12am Thursday, September 15th
South side of Adams from Canal to Clinton
Both sides of Clinton from Adams to Van Buren
Both sides of Quincy from Clinton to Jefferson
Both sides of Jefferson from Adams to Van Buren
Both sides of Jackson from Clinton to Canal

7am to 7pm Friday, September 16th
South side of Adams from Canal to Clinton
East side of Clinton from Adams to Jackson
I've found that over the last few years I've made something of a private game of trying to figure out filming locations in movies or television shows that I enjoy: a sort of geographical "treasure hunt" that I can do when utterly unproductive and near both a copy of a film and of Google Earth. It's not quite so much of a hunt when given a list like this, of course, but I still might get some mild, geeky pleasure out of it, and any pleasure in this life is no small thing. It's certainly more immediately pleasurable than the vocabulary trials of trying to read poetical analysis in German, but that's another story....
Tags: bsg, class-catholicism, dc universe, favourite shows, friends-loyola era, geography, loyola, movies/film/tv, oregon illinois, personal, students, teaching, theological notebook

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.