Well, today I emptied my locker in the Fondren Library reading room, returned the last of my library books and my locker key, posted two boxes of photocopies and books (mainly photocopies) back to myself in Australia, returned the ten or so books I had borrowed from April (DeConick) and said goodbye to April and Rice. Here we are in her office – photo taken by Anne Klein, who has the office next to April’s. Pity I wasn’t smiling, but still… The original version has a lovely medieval (?) Mary in the background but I cut her out in the interests of download speed. 😦
Back where I’m staying, I’ve packed everything I can before tomorrow morning, said a temporary goodbye to Bruce (my husband) whom I won’t be able to talk to again for two days and now have time to worry about missing the plane, being charged for excess baggage, having them lose my baggage etc. Blogging sounds like a more profitable way of spending time. 🙂
I have had such a wonderful time in Houston and at Rice. The Religious Studies collection in the Fondren library is significantly better than the one at UNE and because there are several other Religious Studies/Theology collections in Houston, interlibrary loans tend to be much faster than they are in Armidale. The circulation desk staff were very good about my almost daily requests for receipts for photocopies so that I can claim the costs from my research allowance when I get back home.
I’ve also managed to have conversations with a range of campus ministers at Rice, University of Houston and Texas Christian University and am going home with some good ideas, as well as a better understanding of the church scene in Texas and the US. Everyone has been uniformly welcoming and helpful and I had a wonderful three days in Forth Worth with Brian and Carol Young.
The best part, however, has been being able to reflect on my research with April. I have been extremely grateful for her willingness to spend time with me, lend me significant parts of her library, let me read some of her pre-publication work, listen while I thought out loud, give me ideas about where I might go and what I might look at and provide me with feedback as I worked. I’m going home with a broader and deeper view of my material and a methodology that I am pretty confident will work with the material I’m looking at. If not, it will require only minor tweaking along the way. I also think that between us we have found the solution to a problem that has been fascinating me more or less ever since I started looking at “my” material, which is exciting. Neither of these was actually on my main agenda for the trip, but both will be at least as valuable as what I had hoped to do. My time here has set me up to write a much better thesis (dissertation) than I would have done without it.
I’ve also learned something about the Gospel of Judas and more about the wider aspects of Gnosticism. Although it’s aimed at a general rather than a specialist audience, April’s new book The Thirteenth Apostle will be well worth reading for anyone interested in the Gospel of Judas!
As I prepare to board a plane tomorrow for the long trip home, I am exceedingly grateful to April for making it possible for me to spend these five weeks at Rice, especially since she did it without having actually met me (I could have turned out to be the grad student from hell!). I am also grateful to Prof Jeff Kripal, Head of the Dept of Religious Studies, Dean Gary Wihl of the School of Humanities and the Administration of Rice University for offering me the position of Complimentary Visiting Scholar – without the “complimentary” bit, I could not have afforded to come; to Sarah Bentley, Circulation Coordinator at Fondren library for arranging for me to work so comfortably in the Reading Room; to Prof Majella Franzmann, my supervisor/adviser at UNE for encouraging me to ask about coming; to the various parts of the University of New England and the Uniting Church in Australia who provided funding for my trip; to Bruce, Hugh and Ceiridwen for being willing to support me as I travelled; and last, but by no means least to David and Judy Schubert, who opened their home to a total stranger from the other side of the world, made me welcome, took me places and introduced me to people that tourists don’t usually see, lent me clothing when it was colder than I was prepared for and generally made my stay a delight and to Sr Kitty Carter who brought me and the Schuberts together.
I’ve made many new friends and this will be a time that I will always treasure.
PS – for those of you who are wondering – I’m the one with the red hair!