My husband just asked me what date it was and I realised that yesterday it was seven years ago that I started this blog. It’s had its ups and downs in terms of postings, but it’s been a place where I can reflect on my academic work and its relevance to my paid work etc.
I know that I have certainly matured in my outlook over the seven years and I really hope that before this blog reaches its eighth anniversary I will have finally submitted my doctoral thesis. This assumes that I can find another supervisor, Majella Franzmann having had to withdraw due to pressure of work in her role as Pro Vice Chancellor Humanities at Curtin University. I am grateful for her encouragement for me to get involved in postgraduate study and will miss her support.
My doctoral thesis/dissertation will be a somewhat different document to the one I envisaged when I began my journey as a part time masters research candidate in late 2004, having spent the year learning Coptic for fun. I upgraded to a doctorate in December 2006 and in 2007, I got to spend five weeks with April DeConick at Rice University in Houston, Texas, where I developed some insights into the Coptic text of Thomas that have shaped how I am approaching it.
I also decided while I was there that I really wanted to attend the SBL International Meeting in Auckland in 2008 and that I needed to have a paper accepted in order to be able to afford to go and Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses inspired me to look into psychological research on witness testimony. I became so interested that I worked the paper up into a journal article “How Accurate are Eyewitnesses? Bauckham and the Eyewitnesses in the Light of Psychological Research,” which was published in JBL 129, no. 1 (2010): 177-97. This in turn led to the exciting invitation to write a chapter, “Eyewitness Testimony and the Characters in the Fourth Gospel,” for Chris Skinner’s Characters and characterization in the gospel of John. (Library of New Testament Studies. London: T & T Clark, 2013), which made me explore characterization theory in more depth. I am also seeing strong links between the psychological research on eyewitness testimony and human memory and the social memory theory work being done by people like Chris Keith, Anthony Le Donne and Rafael Rodríguez.
I’ve also done some teaching with Dr Lesley McLean in RELS 387/587 Earliest Christianity: Social Context and Sacred Text in the Studies in Religion area at University of New England (UNE) – the Australian one. Love the teaching, love the on-line interaction with the students, but the marking not so much.
In addition, I’ve been involved as a participant and moderator of the Gospel of Thomas email group where I have appreciated the support of its founder, Mike Grondin* and the other moderators and have enjoyed the conversations. Again, these have provided food for thought on my academic journey.
All this has been interesting, exciting and fun, but has resulted in my having to do a significant rewrite of my methodology chapter and, of course, the literature review, not to mention rejigging some of my earlier analysis of the texts I’m studying. In the middle of it all, I had a long break (nearly two years) where the funding for my chaplaincy position ran out and I spent 14 months working as a research assistant on a number of UNE non-religious projects. This left no intellectual space for biblical studies. I then moved to the other end of the state, became a distance student and spent more time getting my head around a new job that involved working on nearby campuses of two different universities – again, leaving precious little intellectual space. This period was one where there were very few blog posts.
Early last year, I became involved in Shut Up and Write at Charles Sturt University (one of the places where I work). I started moderating on-line sessions using Adobe Connect and while I haven’t found anyone else doing Studies in Religion, I have study buddies all over Australia and in Switzerland and Japan, all experiencing the isolation of the distance post-grad and enjoying the support and structure that weekly writing sessions bring. I am very grateful to Cassily Charles, the Academic Writing Consultant for Higher Degree Research Students for providing me with access to shut Up and Write, and in particular to Willie, Jen, Marcel, Nina and Bruce who have shared writing sessions with me and listened as I thought my way through several episodes of ‘stuckness’ as I worked my way back into my research and my blogging.
My thanks, too, to the various people who have followed this blog and made comments and helpful suggestions over the years. I have really appreciated knowing that I wasn’t just posting into the ether.
Onward and upward!
*Correction: Mike tells me (well, the whole list, actually) that it was actually Paul Miller who founded the Gospel of Thomas email group. Mike ‘only’ took over the reins twelve months later in late 1999 (or very early 2000).