In Which Elizabeth Gaskell and Judi Dench Demand that Lorien Read Theology

If ever motivation existed for trudging through the task of reading 175+ academic pages a day, planning two research projects, and writing book reviews, journal article critiques, and discussion board entries each and every day…

… then it existed in the form of Cranford.

My big boxes full of textbooks (half of which are bigger than the Bible, thank you.) arrived four weeks into an eight week graduate course. My first bona fide graduate course (nearly half of my Missouri State classes were 500s, but it’s not the same). My first course, period, in theological studies which is not my usual field of Early American Republic history, no matter how closely related they may be. Theology is a different world. Meanwhile, and this is quite the confession, as a minister’s daughter I seem to have a Pavlovian response: sleep.

That sounds dreadful. My father is, without question, the most gifted teacher and speaker whom I have encountered. It’s not his fault, this response. But one cannot describe the endless mass of preachers who haven’t skill at preaching, the teachers who haven’t a gift for teaching, and the speakers who can barely speak – nevermind perform. In university this wasn’t a problem for me. Now, suddenly, I’m watching DVDs of a bland speaker discussing something God-esque and I feel like I did as a teenager listening to some random preacher and thinking, “ah, yes. This would be such-and-such outline I heard when I was eleven. Snore.”

No matter that the material is interesting. No matter that Intertestamental Judaism, particularly under Ezra/Nehemiah, is ridiculously fascinating. It’s Pavlov, man.

Nevertheless, to the right of my desk is Cranford, perched impatiently on my bookshelf. Judi Dench and Imelda Staunton are staring at me from the cover. Nineteenth century BritLit! Gaskell of North and South! Staunton. Dench. Atkins. Gambon. All on my bookshelf, waiting for all of my studies to be thoroughly caught up so that I can watch it a free mind and spirit. With special features.

and so I continue studying as fast and as thoroughly as I can, trying to ignore the abject terror of how dreadfully behind I really am. This was not how I wanted to begin grad school.

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