Friday, November 21, 2008

Some Good News

This post is dedicated to Richard, who sent me a note in one of the comments that went something like this: "As you may know I am on strike, so I need some good news from you!" So, to all those on strike at York: represent! Thank you for standing up for the rights of all of us union folk, especially since this union folk is so far away and missing all the action. And, since I do aim to please, here is Some Good News, Richard, which I do hope cheers you. (is that even proper grammar? anyway - )

Academically, I am a very happy woman. Well, I'm happy anyway, but especially happy academically! I made a difficult decision two weeks ago, and am pleased with this decision. As I had outlined in an earlier post, the plan was to take five courses this semester. Unfortunately, there was a scheduling conflict with two of these classes: God, Man and History in the Ancient Near East (G,M&H) and Creative Writing(CW). What to do? I decided that as much as I love CW workshops, I'm writing creatively all the time and G,M&H is presenting me with new material that I know will prove to be inspirational fodder for my writing in general and my thesis in particular. I chose the latter, knowing that I will catch up with the CW prof next semester in her Literary Translation Workshop.

Here is my extremely delicious dilemna: how to choose which class is my favourite? I'm up every morning at 6, so excited to start my day. The classes are quite small: 6 in Shekhinah; 10 or 12 in G,M&H; 12 in Biblical Hebrew (which is large compared to our little group at York!); and around 20 in Modern Hebrew. In the course on the Shekhinah, we're reading Scholem and Tishby right now, all about the En-Sof, the Sefirot and the Shekhinah. Dr. Iris Felix is fantastic to listen to: her style of explaining these very esoteric and (often) confusing concepts is so down-to-earth, and it's all said in this fantastic NY accent. We sat and chatted during one of our cawfee breaks and she's just as interesting to speak with/listen to outside of class as she is while teaching.

I just had my first conversation with Wayne Horowitz (G,M&H) after class last wednesday. It was very funny, because the logo on his sweatshirt said "Batchawana Bay, Canada," so I asked him where that is. Being Canadian and all, I thought it was important to learn more about my country. It turns out it's near Sault Ste. Marie. (Yay, Ontario! Boo, T, for not knowing my country so well...but it's soooo big!) So, we started chatting and it turns out he knows all about Maidman's list of epigraphic sources concerning (and please correct me if I'm wrong or not-quite-right) the history of Israel and the ANE, as provided by ostraca, tablets, steles, etc, as discovered through archaeological excavations. (Epigraphy [Greek, ἐπιγραφή — "written upon"] is the study of inscriptions or epigraphs engraved into stone or other durable materials, or cast in metal, the science of classifying them as to cultural context and date, elucidating them and assessing what conclusions can be deduced from them. [...] Epigraphy is a primary tool of archaeology when dealing with literate cultures. This collection of epigraphic sources is the primary text Maidman uses in his History of Israel Without the Bible course, a course that is offered by invitation only, a course that Richard has taken and Rob is taking now. So, Prof. Horowitz and I had a lovely chat about the family of the Mesopotamian pantheon and the (tentative) thought I had about the correlation of such a family and the Israelite family of the 12 tribes, about Maidman and how generous a person he has been to me and his very cool epigraphic collection, about historical novels set in Mesopotamia which I need to read, and Batchawana Bay. The material in this course is fascinating and, Richard, rest easy: you will be receiving the syllabus and bibliography shortly. It's early days, but I'm digging Jacobsen.

Biblical Hebrew is taught by Ohad Cohen. As it turns out, I must have done well on my placement exam because I'm in Intermediate, this year's upper-level class. In the first semester we're concentrating on prose, and next semester it will be poetry. So, the goal is to finally begin my translations of Judges 5, which Carl had told me is one of the most difficult (and oldest) texts in the Tanakh. Fun! (And I smell a more detailed paper cooking for Carl as a result of this...) I felt very clever in class earlier in the week while parsing a Lamed"yod verb where a vav was in place of the yod and Ohad asked us if we knew what was going on here. Although I couldn't remember the actual term/technical, grammatical explanation, I did know that when the vav stands in place of the yod in some verbal forms, it's a throwback to the origins of the Hebrew language. As it turns out, this is called The NorthWest Semitic Language Shift. I think this sounds very romantic:
In the Gardens of Babylon
I felt your NorthWest
Semitic language shift

(I've decided that I very much enjoy living life as An Associative Thinker.)
(I also know that my dad will call my little verse cheesy, then proceed to substitute this for the lyrics of some popular song and that the only people who will laugh and find this charming are my sister and me.)

On a (sort-of) non-academic note, Rob was here for ten days and we were able to hang out for a few of them. One day we road-tripped up to Mount Tabor, the geographic focus of my thesis. In Judges 4 and 5, Mount Tabor is the location from which Deborah's forces attack Sisera's chariots and the Israelites kick some serious Canaanite ass. It was spectacular - the weather was perfect, the traffic was mostly good, the scenery was amazing. We hiked around the summit's perimeter, I took photos and wrote of what I felt and saw. Looking North, you can see Tsfat to the left, the Jordan Valley Rift to the right, and in between in the distance is Hazor. I will return - I feel pulled there and want to spend at least a few more days absorbing and photographing and walking and just being there.

So, Richard, I hope this tides you over for a while and that a satisfactory agreement is reached soon at the bargaining table. Till soon, with the promise of more good news, more photos, and more geeky info from your favourite gingi, middle-east-side. Yo.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bougival Teaser

Yeah, I should be reading either from "The Cultural Atlas of Ancient Mesopotamia" or "The Wisdom of the Zohar." I should be writing more to you. I should be finishing translating Ruth 1:15-20. Hmmm, maybe I should memorize some Hebrew vocabulary...Instead, just to let you know that I'm still here and that I still loves ya, here are some photos to tide you over till I'm ready to be more verbose.

Self-portrait in one of the parks along the Seine in Bougival.

These are fancy little things to hold open window-shutters.

Being told you don't have priority sounds so much nicer en francais.

Rotten shot of the Virgin of the High Street. Three options could fix this: I need to grow; I need to carry a ladder with me just in case I am ever again faced with a too-high-for-me shot; I need one of those fancy lens-things so I can stand across the street and get a better angle...I'm very technical.