Thursday, November 10, 2011

Martin Luther's Birthday, the Two Marys, Manuscript Assembly, and More: a Thursday Miscellany

Today is Martin Luther's birthday.  You might be saying, "Oh come on, Kristin!  Didn't you just write about the Reformation?"  Well, yes indeed I did (go here for that post).  But since that posting, I've come to realize that I should have mentioned the imperfections of Luther.  So, in today's post on my theology blog, I tried to address that omission.

Those of us who are English majors have likely already had to deal with the question of how we come to terms with the personal lives and/or beliefs of authors which repulse our modern sensibilities:  Should I reject the work of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge because they allowed/expected Dorothy Wordsworth to transcribe their poems? For years, I did. But then I read more, and realized that Dorothy took great joy in their literary community. It seemed unfair to castigate William and Samuel for their lack of modern feminist sensibilities.

Similarly, I have decided to celebrate the ways that Martin Luther catapulted us to this modern life that we enjoy while rejecting his problematic beliefs. 

But maybe you came to this blog looking to celebrate the accomplishments of women.  I'd point you to this wonderful piece by Erica Jong (yes, that Erica Jong).  She says, "All women writers in English stand on the backs of two Marys, whether we know it or not."  She's talking about Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley.  It's a piece that pleased my feminist, English major soul.

If you're looking for practical advice, I loved this piece by Sandy Longhorn, which talks about how to create a reading series.  She promises more thoughts on the subject.  As someone who has tried to organize reading series of all sorts, I'm especially interested in how to increase attendance.  Should I give extra credit to my students who attend?  Should I ask other teachers to do that?  Does having food help?

And if you're putting together a book manuscript, you might find this essay fascinating (thanks to Jeannine Hall Gailey who pointed me to it in her blog post).  Erika Meitner served as a screener, a first reader in the book contest process; she winnowed hundreds of manuscripts down to a few that the judge would see.  This process gave her intriguing insights.   Are you creating a mix tape of a book or a project of a book?  This essay will help you decide.  She concludes by creating a list of themes and structuring devices that she noticed.

I read these with interest, because I have several manuscripts in my head, one of which fits this theme that she noticed:  "D) The Hallelujah Manuscript – a collection which arranges itself according to liturgical concepts (the order of a prayer service), a religious calendar, or a holy book of some kind (bible included), is usually Christian in outlook and content, and contains either heavy use of litany/apostrophe or deep philosophical treatises in verse on the nature of the divine."

I've long been aware of my tendency to take a liturgical holiday and weave a poem.  Some of my titles will let you see what I mean:  "Finishing the Assessment Document on the Feast of the Epiphany," "Maundy Thursday at Hartsfield," "Conducting a Performance Review on the Feast of the Ascension," and "Ash Wednesday at the Trinity Test Site."  Sometimes it's a secular holiday:  "Armistice Day at the Abbey" and "Christmas Eve at Ground Zero."  I have fewer of those--and even Christmas Eve isn't secular, is it?

I had planned to just arrange those poems in calendar year order to see what happened.  After reading her essay, I worry that my approach would be trite.

Trite or time honored?  Hmm.  I'll play with the possibility and see what I think.

Here we are, on the eve of a 3 day week-end, a perfect time to play with poems.  Even though I've been travelling and using vacation days, my heart still leaps up at the idea of a 3 day week-end.  I'll do some baking, since it's finally temperate enough down here to turn on the oven.  Shall I decorate for Thanksgiving or go straight to Christmas?  I'll do laundry and some other chores.  I'll see friends in a variety of settings. 

I'll try to stay mindful of the older holiday of Armistice Day, and the modern incarnation of Veteran's Day.  I'll remember to give thanks for the sacrifices of so many who have made my domestic peace possible.  I'll pray for the government leaders of all our countries, in the hopes that they'll continue to avert catastrophes of all sorts, from the economic to the armed conflict to the planet destroying variety.

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