Til we have faces

::dons surgical mask::

::grabs dust mop::

DIE DUST BUNNIES!!!!!

::a cloud of dust erupts as the killer mutant monster dust bunnies are swept out of the blog::

Phew. I’m ba-ack! 🙂

 

moriarty

 

In my defense, it was a hell of a summer and I never promised to update regularly. 😛

The title for this post is from C.S. Lewis’ novel of the same name and it is brilliant. Read it, if you haven’t. The title seemed appropriate for this post. I have literally spent weeks trying to figure out how to put this into words as all the thoughts kept being a whirlwind in my head, refusing to coalesce into coherency. I finally found the key in the words of one of my friends (you know who you are):

 

Don’t let your passion and creativity take backseat to your image.

 

Why is this so forefront in my mind right now? This semester I took a class on teaching and pedagogy. It was, I kid you not, the most valuable class I’ve taken in the course of this degree. It stretched my mind and gave me a vision for what I want my own teaching practice and classroom to look like, and gave me so much to think about.* But one of the major things it made me think about is who I am in the classroom. Not as a student, but as a teacher. And it’s not something I ever had to think about before because I just decided to be myself, and that seems to work. My first time teaching research methods I was new, nervous, though I thought the whole thing went reasonably well. The second time around, I decided to have fun with it. I geeked out my slides: every week was a different theme, ranging from Star Wars to Doctor Who to Lord of the Rings, which inevitably led to pre/post class discussions on why exactly the Witch King could NOT have broken Gandalf’s staff**, why Peter Capaldi is a bloody brilliant 12th Doctor***, why Thor: The Dark World was NOT the worst Marvel film ever****, etc.

And that one seemingly small change changed the entire atmosphere of the classroom. I was still the instructor, but I was human. Everything was more relaxed. We got the work done, but we had some laughs along the way as well. I loved that semester.

So bringing myself into the classroom with the things that make me me is not something I ever thought about. I learned to do it.

And then we started talking about image in the classroom and the problems in academia in that respect. Do a Google search for “university professor”. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

You see the problem? The image search results overwhelmingly favour older white men*****. While the situation is changing within academia, it’s far from changed over. One of the women panelists who came to class, a young woman in her thirties, gave a talk on how she felt she had to keep the “dancing” part of herself out of the classroom in order to be taken seriously.

STOP. RIGHT. THERE.

I am a dancer.******

I am a writer.

I need both these things like breathing. I was made to dance like I was made to write. They are part of what makes me a whole person, and when I bring the whole person into the classroom as opposed to the person I think I should be it gives me so much more confidence. And I’m a better teacher for it.

 

Point.

 

 

*Trust me, that’s another blog post. I’ll get to it. Eventually. Patience is a virtue, people.

**I have no other complaints about the films. They are gorgeous. Stunning. But I will nitpick on that one detail. Fight me.

***BLOODY. BRILLIANT. I LOVE HIM.

****I WILL FIGHT YOU ON THIS. DANCE OFF. NOW.

*****I’d have provided a screenshot but my computer is being stupid and won’t let me. Grr.

******And lemme just say, I spent the entire summer dealing with an injury it only served to make me go HELL YES I AM A DANCER AND I WILL DANCE.

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Something old, something new…

…by which I mean, I had a meeting with my thesis supervisor today and it got me thinking. About a lot of things.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

My research focus is, broadly speaking, women in Anglo-Saxon & Old Norse texts. And since I’m only just beginning this venture, I was feeling very. Overwhelmed. By. Everything. That. Has. Already. Been. Written.

And I’m supposed to think of something NEW to say?

 

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Thankfully, my supervisor made me feel a whole lot better and I came away with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for why I’m researching this topic in the first place. And not just because I’m huge nerd (which I am. In case that wasn’t obvious).

It’s because the women in these tales are freakin’ awesome.

My fascination with all this grew out of my love for Tolkien. He writes beautifully for women (Melian, Luthien, Galadriel, Arwen, Eowyn, to name a few), giving them depth and presence, and so I wondered at his source material. The ancient tales that inspired him.

And that’s how I discovered Wealhtheow in Beowulf. In the midst of this very masculine heroic world, there walks in a queen. And not just a pretty face, but one with grace, intelligence, and authority; her speeches are written in the imperative, signifying that she is not just a pretty face. She is telling them what to do.

Moving on, there are such Norse figures as Brynhilde, Unn the Deep Minded, Yrsa, and the list just goes on. And yes. There are some who are vicious, jealous figures. But my point is that they have a very distinct presence in the sagas and the elegiac poetry. Some wield swords, some wield magic, some wield words. And they are a force to be reckoned with, even within the constraints of their time.

And they are amazing.

And that, in turn, makes me think of the women I write. They look so different from the characters I used to write. They’ve grown (I hope!!) in presence and strength and power. Some of them will use swords and be bad ass in that way. Some of them use words. Some of them use magic. And I might not agree with all of their choices. But they are based on the things that inspire me from these bright, beautiful, ancient tales. They are based on the awesome women I am privileged to know. And they are all rooted in the fact that being a woman is a beautiful thing. Not without its difficulties, but still a good and beautiful thing.

Waes hal!