On January 16th we’ll start the course this trip has inspired: “The Female Voice”. In the months since I journeyed back from Haworth, time has been spent cultivating the syllabus around the course, reaching out to voices who could speak into the content, and continuing to learn about women- especially outside of Europe and America- who are grandmothers we need to know. (There are SO MANY incredible women in our global history, y’all.)
As I began mapping the women that I wanted to study and the places they would lead me, I wanted to not only know the ‘noble’ women in history and their accomplishments, but I wanted to be honest and sure in knowing their complications. If we don’t know their complications, we don’t know their humanity, and we completely miss the point.
St. Catherine, y’all.
She’s one of two patron saints of Italy, along with St. Francis of Assisi; one of six patron saints of Europe; and one of only four female Doctors of the Church. Most of what we know about her comes to us through the writings of Raymond of Capua, a close friend and spiritual director of St. Catherine who published her biography after her death.
Around a year ago, I found a list on the Internet (hooray internet!) of every woman listed in the New Testament- named and unnamed, many of which I had never heard stories of as I grew up. With friends and later with a former student, we began to sift through these women and their stories, beginning with the genealogy of Christ at the start of Matthew: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. We researched these grandmothers of Jesus and learned their stories, discussed why their names were included when every other genealogy lists only men. We talked about their seemingly sordid history that we often see as 21st century Americans, and found instead women with courage in circumstances they could not control, women who grew and reached for a larger vision of the world.
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Before I knew I was awarded the Fund for Teachers grant that’s allowing me to visit all of these places and people, I knew I was teaching a course titled “Bildungsroman” at Odyssey. “Bildungsroman” is one of my favorite words, a German word that often gets swapped around with the phrase “coming of age” but means much more than that. Bildungsroman refers to the growing awareness of the world around us, the loss of innocence as we grapple with sudden complications unaware to a child, and the moral development one seeks on this journey as they navigate to atonement or isolation. As we wrestled with the books that students would read in this vein, Anne Frank’s story, “The Diary of a Young Girl” was an obvious choice. (And partly because I secretly hoped for this grant and knew this book would be built into my schedule to reread!)
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Oof, where do I begin?
First, I tried to read books in order of our journey, but that quickly got disjointed. And here I find myself deep into the Brontë sisters’ words and dreaming of broody days looking out over the moors. The Brontë parsonage in Haworth, England is our last official stop on the trip before we head home, and meant to serve as a time of reflection for who these women were that first published under a male pseudonyms, and where we are now.
As long as I live, I will have control over my being. – Artemisia Gentileschi
In two days, we’ll be two months away from rolling out to Rome and I cannot wait! I have been swimming through books on the women I’m studying and watching as many movies and documentaries as I can. My thought is to document those so as to have a basis for later posts on these women (it will be a LOT to document both the place and their stories all at once) and potentially for students to use later in the class I’ll create. I’ll also be tagging in my friend, Sarah, who’s coming on the trip with me, to share thoughts on books and movies as well.
This week: Artemisia Gentileschi. We’ll be hanging out with Artemisia at our second stop in Florence. She was an Italian Baroque painter and arguably one of the most well-known female painters of all time. We’ll go see a few of her works including “Judith Beheading Holofernes” at the Uffizi Gallery and a few other “big” places she spent time at in Florence.
Dear my mother, my aunt, Sarah’s mom, and the three random Swedes that will find this site and follow it:
Here it is, a special site for all of the preparation, duration, and aftermath of this monster trip that I am so fortunate to take! Feel free to subscribe to learn more about the women I’ll be studying, the books informing this journey, the photos/stories I’ll collect, and the various versions of “Landslide” I’ll listen to along the way.