Epic Belgian Email #28

Welcome to the Over-due Epic O’ Doom!

Like everything else that is the product of having some
discipline, my Epic Email production has gone rather down-hill
lately. But at this exact moment, motivation is present, if not
sufficient to re-start (again) on my thesis. So here’s your
epic!

It has been a trying several weeks. Last time you heard from me,
I was trying to recover from the news that my thesis was
“unoriginal and unfocused.” I had plans for regrouping and an
upcoming meeting with my promoter where I was going to show him
those plans.

I never got that far. As soon as I reached his office, he began
to tell me how I was in fiiiiine shape, and really, all I needed
to do was focus a little more on archaeology and iconography.

This should be a relief, right?

Wrong.

I never planned to talk about iconography in my thesis to start
with. So “focusing a little more” really meant changing my
subject.

*sigh*

The professor and I simply aren’t on the same wavelength, and I
admit I more or less gave up trying to get him to see my wavelength
there on the spot. Instead, I attempted to figure out which
wavelength he was on so I could join him there. I figure if he
sees my thesis as less-than-doomed from where he stands, it
would do me good to have the same perspective.

The next week was filled up with a class (a leftover from first
semester) so that I didn’t spend much time thinking about my
thesis. Instead I got to learn some stuff about Dark Age and
Classical Greece, which was really quite a nice change of pace.
Rah rah Athens!

By the time I got back to thinking about my thesis, I was
feeling decidedly glum. I spent some time despairing and
floundering around, completely unable to figure out where to
(re)start. My topic was simply too out of control to handle. I
finally gave up and begged some help from Dustin who, despite
not being a PhD holder in Iron Age Palestine, was at least
willing to discuss my subject. (More than a certain PhD scholar
I won’t bother naming ever did…) With some prodding and
encouragement from him, I finally latched onto the idea of
focusing on one goddess (Asherah) and tracking the evolution in
her iconography from the Bronze Age in Ugarit to the Iron Age in
Israel.

This was truly a good idea, and I was even excited about it. A
fine, solid topic with well defined limits and reasonable
potential for saying something interesting.

It was such a good idea, in fact, that no one has ever done it
before. No one has ever been ABLE to do it before, for the
simple reason that it doesn’t exist. As I discovered in the
library on Monday, there IS no iconography for Asherah. Not one
single inscription, drawing, etching, statue, sculpture, seal
stamp, painting, or stick of furniture that has been definitely
identified as being her image. Not one. Not in all of Syria or
Palestine. Scholars would give their back teeth to have someone
write the thesis I want to write.

Which lands me right back at square one. I can pick a different
goddess (Anat and Astarte are my two remaining candidates) but
they are far more complicated to place into a historical
context. And my motivation keeps getting dashed to pieces…

On Sunday I came home to discover my computer had gone belly up. Died in its sleep, I suppose. Wouldn’t even turn on. I immediately entered the happy state of denial (the last time I backed up my files was in November) and called my mommy to see if she could make it better. (My mommy always makes it better.) Since progress on my thesis has been almost non-existent, there was no need for full-blown panic, but a little mild depression was necessary considering the potential loss of a paper for the class I mentioned and a 17 page annotated bibliography…

Miraculously, things in computerland have been improving since
then. I tricked my poor baby computer into turning on again, and
he now seems to be back to normal, although I don’t dare plug
anything into the USB ports, and my CD writer is wonky. But most
importantly, I got backups of my files, so if anything goes
wrong again, I won’t be totally dooooomed.

Which leaves me with no more excuses. I have developed a deep
loathing for my thesis, which I have been told is a symptom of
being a masters student, but that’s not very comforting. Just
think… if I can be a bit less of a slug, in less than two
months (well less!) I will be completely done with this, and
shortly en route to the Netherlands!

Aaaah! It’s a happy dream!

Now that I’ve battered you with my academic woes, surely I must
have something upbeat to share? The sun came out once or twice
over the last week. The chickens are laying more eggs than we
can eat. There’s a mouse living in my wall. I’ve been trying to
catch him with peanut butter and a bucket, much to the profound
entertainment of my housemates.

Yup! I guess that’s about news! Sorry I’ve been so inconsistent
lately. I guess nothing so dire has transpired anyway. I hope
the situation is similar on your ends of the globe (in terms of
nothing dire, that is, not broken computers or mice in the
walls…) I’m sending love and hugs and chicken kisses!

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2 thoughts on “Epic Belgian Email #28

  1. “As I discovered in the library on Monday, there IS no iconography for Asherah. Not one single inscription, drawing, etching, statue, sculpture, seal stamp, painting, or stick of furniture that has been definitely identified as being her image. Not one. Not in all of Syria or Palestine. Scholars would give their back teeth to have someone write the thesis I want to write.”

    Hoo boy. This is really firing up my religion geek.

    Isn’t this basically because Asherah was a Canaanite goddess who got kinda/sorta merged into bits of early Judaism, and so the Israelite leaders ordered all images of her destroyed, as per the first/second commandments? It’s all very fuzzy… I did a seventeen-page term paper on all this during my junior year at Coe, and that’s probably the last time I looked at it.

    Why do these things persist in my brain? Why am I using my brain space for trivia about ancient Mesopotamian religions and lyrics to songs I liked in the mid-90s? Why can’t I use it for something like long-term storage of foreign languages I’ve studied? Every time I go back to study Greek again, I have to start all over because I’ve forgotten it all. But yet I still know EVERY SINGLE WORD to Amy Grant’s Heart in Motion.

  2. Hahahaha!!

    Yes, eh hem, I wouldn’t know anything about memory being wasted on useless stuff…

    And regarding Asherah, the answer is yes and no. A lot of religious iconography of the area was destroyed by invading Israelite armies, but quite a bit managed to survive. (There were, in the end, more idolaters than non-idolaters running around ;)) The problem is that none of it was *labeled.* It’s kind of like restroom signs today – the ubiquitous Man and Woman that universally indicate “here is a toilet.” We look at those and simply know what they mean. No need to also write “Men’s Toilet” and “Women’s Toilet.” The same was true then – they could look at an image of Asherah and say “ah ha! I know that goddess! (grovel grovel)” without having to be told which one she was. Anat and Astart can be recognized because they hit it big on the Egyptian scene, and everyone knows, my dear Isis, how much Egyptians liked to label things. 😀 You can then track backward using the labeled images from Egypt to figure out which of the unlabeled images from the Canaan area belonged to which goddess.

    Whew! Aw man, I miss doing this with every waking our of my day (excepting the ones I used to sit around drinking Belgian beer…)

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