Senior Honors Project
Producing my Honors Project was a fascinating and challenging experience, and certainly one-of-a-kind. It all started back when I was first introduced to the idea of the Project. It was my first year, and I sat in TRW agog with the possibilities. Right away, I was captured with the idea of writing a novel, probably fantasy. Over the years, I added and subtracted to this vision as my interests grew and changed. I became a Theology major in addition to English; I fell in love with the Hebrew Bible; I realized that one of my side-projects, a fantasy story I was writing in response to a recent film, fit snugly with the story of Exodus. While I toyed with the idea of this story, I was thrilled to collaborate with Dr. Colleen Carpenter on her work on the role of the Imagination within Theology. Here, I was introduced for the first time to Midrash, and made some first attempts at consciously writing my own.
It was at this point that I decided that I wanted to expand my sketches of my Fantasy-Exodus story into a full-fledged novel based within Scripture, Biblical context, and Midrashim. I was exhilarated; for the first time, I would be working on something that I was truly and completely passionate about, able to move in any direction I chose. Books on Egyptian society and Jewish texts began accumulating in my room. While abroad in Ireland the Spring of my Junior year, I spent particularly rainy days tracking down and watching every documentary on Exodus, Egypt, and Jewish scholarship that I could find. I wrote, and I re-wrote, and I started everything over again. By the Fall of this, my Senior year, I had become aware of a major problem: I was afraid to actually write. I had, at this point, over a hundred pages of story, and I was nowhere close to finished. Instead of continuing off of what I already had, however, I obsessively rewrote what I had already written. The effect was that I successfully went nowhere, fast. With school back in full swing, I found it increasingly difficult to give myself over to my writing. After struggling for several months with the feeling that I needed to be working on something more productive whenever I sat down to write, I realized the source of my block. I have always been good at writing, but my training has been almost completely academic. Creative writing was something allotted to those moments when I was done with all of my required work. Even the work I had done for my Creative Writing classes had been short pieces, written for the class and my professors and not for me. Now, for the first time, I was allowed, even required, to write for myself – and I no longer remembered how to do it. Once I got past that struggle, there were other problems to deal with. I had been doing research for so long that I no longer knew where many of my ideas had originally come from, or if they were, in fact, originally mine. Similarly, much of my knowledge of postmodernism had been gleaned from years of observations and sources long since lost to time. On top of all the rest, my research into Midrash was going poorly. It seemed impossible to find a definitive definition of what Midrash was, and, once found, to actually find a source for the Midrashim on Exodus.
Finally, in what was perhaps the most unexpected challenge of all, my committee returned my first draft to me with a great many questions, the central component of many being “Where are the women?” As someone would considers herself a feminist, I was horrified. For a while, I tried to make excuses – there were more women characters coming! – but I had to face the fact that, though I claimed to be writing a feminist interpretation, I had chosen a malecentered story. Though there were many opportunities in the text to center an adaptation on one of the women characters, or even to speak with her voice, I had chosen to write a narrative that focused on the relationship between two brothers. As much as I adore it, the Fantasy/Sci-Fi genre is not exactly a hotbed of feminist work. Until recently, women in Fantasy novels were often relegated to the roles of Princess-in-a- Tower, Witch/Evil Queen, or Amazonian temptress. Even Tolkien, the Father of the genre, has only minor roles for women, when they enter the picture at all. I was, unintentionally, following the same path; even though I was including women characters, and even giving them some important roles, women were not at the center of my work. They dogged the sidelines, waiting for their chance to step in for a moment of glory. Making my work more feminist has been a slow and painful process, and requires me to discard many previous plans. I finally started to find success in the character of Wendi, originally a bit part who decided she wanted to be much more. Much to my surprise as much as anyone, Wendi became one of the most motivated and interesting characters of the work so far. She reminded me that I do, in fact, have the capability to write rounded female characters, and that I enjoy it immensely. As I look back on the work I have done, I am ever more excited to continue. Writing fantasy as a continuation of Midrashic tradition is something that I can very willingly devote my life to doing. At the moment, I am looking to continue my studies of the Hebrew Bible, and I hope to one day read it in its original languages and understand the richness of its context. For now, I am pleased to have completed the work you read here. Included is a draft of a cover, the first part of the novel as completed for this project, and an appendix further outlining some of my sources. It is the culmination of many years of research and effort, and I hope very much that you enjoy it.
Ingman, Elea, "From Scripture to Midrash to Postmodern Fantasy: Adaptation as a Contemporary Continuation of Tradition" (2015). Antonian Scholars Honors Program. 37.