Heather V. Vermeulen  ’10 M.A.R.
B.A. University of Richmond 2007

VermeulenIt has been an eclectic but wonderful three years, and so I suppose it’s not surprising that my work for the year to come looks to be eclectic—and wonderful as well, I hope. In my studies at YDS, I moved through various academic terrains, ranging from the “Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in Religion” concentration of my arrival, through a wholly unanticipated switch to Hebrew Bible (along came the brilliant and fabulous Professor Carolyn Sharp in my first semester here…).  Finally, in my third year, I made the difficult, but right, decision to finish my requirements for Hebrew Bible but shift the remainder of my coursework to a matrix of African American Studies; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; American Studies; and Religion and Literature.

“Eclectic” might not be strong enough a word, and “wonderful” falls short as well. I have been richly blessed with mentors at every turn who have supported my transitions and helped make them possible.

Due to the rather last-minute realization that I could not dwell in the land of Hebrew Bible as my primary discipline, I decided to postpone applying to doctoral programs (in African American Studies, American Studies, and Literature) until this coming fall, so that I could finish my third year of coursework first.

So, my year “off” – the first ever – will begin with a trip to Israel, on YDS’s Two Brothers Fellowship, to work with a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem for the month of June. While there, and when I return, I also will continue my work as the planning assistant for Professor Sharp’s fall conference, Feminist and Postcolonial Perspectives on Jeremiah, and as a research assistant to the Long Range Planning Committee at YDS. My tasks for the latter include reviewing the School’s history and development over the past 15 or so years and examining the current state of theological education and different Christian denominations, then reporting back to various sub-committees as they seek to chart the future of the School. So far, I’m finding both jobs to be fascinating and am immensely grateful to my employers. My previous work with the YDS Pre-Doctoral Women’s Mentoring Group, which the School graciously allowed us to make an official student organization this past fall, and my time serving on Curriculum Committee as well as Student Council, helped prepare me to take a closer look at academic administration. And, of course, I am delighted to continue my connections to the world of Hebrew Bible scholarship through assisting Professor Sharp with the Jeremiah Conference.

Beginning later in the summer and throughout the academic year, I will serve as a research assistant to several Yale faculty members in what looks to be a wide variety of areas. Several research assistant positions remain up in the air, but one that is more-or-less solidified is working for Hazel Carby, the Charles C. & Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies & American Studies, on her current book project entitled Child of Empire. I probably will spend most of my time researching various archives for information on Jamaica’s history. Professor Carby’s “Fictions of Imminent Futures” class this spring was positively brilliant, and I can’t wait to work with her over the coming year.

Additionally, I hope to become a volunteer with New Haven reads, and will continue my involvement with the Black Feminist Theory & Praxis Reading Group at Yale, perhaps helping to develop a program to engage youth in local schools.

Finally, I have four “projects” under way, all of which combine my convoluted academic past in sometimes unexpected ways. One seeks to trace the use and function of incest in black women’s literature and its media refraction. The second examines Octavia Butler’s trilogy Lilith’s Brood (originally Xenogenesis) with respect to her use of the Lilith tradition from Jewish Midrash and the ways in which Butler explores sexuality and constructions of black womanhood through this figure. The third will be a postcolonial critique of sorts that places Avatar in conversation with District 9. I am interested in (and, at times, terrified or at least unsettled by) mass media and the cultural imagination. The fourth and final “project” tentatively is entitled “An Ark of Souls Under Water: Biblical Witness as (Counter) Archive in Marlene NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!.” It is a study of Philip’s deployment of biblical motifs in her book-length poetic work about the slave ship The Zong. I also might continue a paper on Biblical narratives, ritual, and meaning in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road… but I believe that I have more than enough to keep me busy at present!

Many, many thanks to my professors and classmates, and to the administration at YDS. It has been an honor, a privilege, and a joy.