he week ended nicely: Thursday's talks with my Jesus class on the crucifixion accounts tended toward giving them a lot of basic New Testament background information, and pointers in the sort of critical approaches or questions historians ask of the texts, and the growing list of reasons people took them seriously in the 20th century from the high point of post-Enlightenment skepticism. An example like the detail John's gospel throws in of blood and water flowing from the stab wound in Jesus's torso after his death really grabbed them. The phenomenon was inexplicable to the author, who admits it is peculiar and emphasizes his including the detail simply because it was witnessed. But contemporary medical science sees in it an understood phenomenon of certain sorts of heart trauma involving the pericardium. Such details that could only be understood in later generations make a big impression on historians wondering if they are dealing with accounts from eyewitnesses, and the students picked up on that.
Friday's Catholicism course had us transitioning over into our primary text, and the students seemed to be getting more comfortable with that. I'm thinking about tweaking the first readings: it's awkward because our basic required course, Introduction to World Religions, doesn't really prepare people to take those of our second-level courses that have some more specific focus in Christian theology, and so I have to start the courses with some sort of primer in the methodology of theology in contrast to religious studies, and to address the overall scope of Christian theology and where my course falls into that spectrum. I thought I had the Catholicism course pretty much nailed down, but now I'm suspecting that this introductory lessons need adjustment: maybe a smaller reading that I can still get the key ideas out of the students with, but which I can walk through more methodically. I currently blaze through Ford's Theology: A Very Short Introduction
, which is good, but which I do too quickly for the density of the material. Today we looked at the forms of writing in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, as well as methods of interpretation and criticism through history. One class focused in more on New Testament origins, while the other was more interested in Christian interpretations of the scriptures as a coherent whole, and the development of the picture of God in the various texts, and whether that could be defended. Good conversation in both sessions. T
here was some good down time, too. After burning the candle at both ends all week, I had no idea how tired I really was. Starting the job application season is like adding at least an extra course to my 4/4 teaching load, as well as doing my independent study and my regular research and writing. So Friday I met Mari and Ilya, Barbra and Terri (and Aaron, who could only stay for 20 minutes or half an hour) over at Cure
, where a few of the others met Ilya for the first time, and I packed away something good with the unlike description of being "Fennel Apple Sausage." At about eight, we moved over to The Columns
(I rode east, for the first time, down Freret with Ilya and Mari, and discovered that Freret is far more developed and lively in that direction than I thought) where we met up with Tim and Minoo, who had grabbed a big table, located perfectly in the corner of the huge front porch. A little later we were also joined by Maria, the wife of Marc, who are both anthropologists teaching for us, Marc having finished at Tulane last year, and Maria currently dissertating. She's apparently in in the earlier mornings, and so our paths had never crossed before. As she and Marc have a toddling son, they swapped off and Marc stayed home that evening. So I got to hear something of her research, which among other points was looking at a particular festival from a group of immigrants from Guatemala, a community of people now largely settled together in the States, and how that festival's meanings were both maintained as well as how they were adapted or took on new meanings in the group's new circumstances. It sounded like a really cool fieldwork kind of project, and one that demanded a great deal of both observational and interviewing sensitivity to pick up on such changes. The table continued talking in various interchanging groups until around ten-thirty. It was mostly just fun and random topics – a lot on food! – but I did hear from Tim that the Provost had okayed the department to finally do a search for the junior Catholic Theology position this year, so I'll be applying for the job I'm currently filling in a temporary capacity. I didn't feel particularly tired that night when I got home, but it caught up to me on Saturday, and it was good to really recharge over the weekend. I didn't realize how tired I had been until I realized how perky I felt today in comparison!