Dr. Alyda Faber
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics
B.A. (Hons.) (University of Guelph)
M.A. (University of New Brunswick)
B.Th., MDiv (McGill University and United Theological College)
Ph.D. (McGill University)
I aspire to teach students how to live. This, a character in a J.M. Coetzee novel claims, makes a good teacher. I enter into this bold venture because I have had teacher-mentors who have changed my life. I attempt this because, as the American poet Jack Gilbert writes in his poem, “Failing and Flying,” “anything/worth doing is worth doing badly.”
I’ve had the privilege over the years of working on my poems with many frank and kind editors. My experience of working with editors has led me to think about editing poetry as a way to understand moral agency. We tend to think of moral agency as the capacity to choose—without thinking about what choosing looks like. To use Iris Murdoch’s image, it would be to notice the ant hill without looking at all the ants on the ground, foraging and to-and-fro-ing, carrying grains of dirt and debris to make the hill emerge—slowly. Editing is not a dramatic, fireworks kind of process. You work by punctuation marks, by word, by line, by stanza. Words that seemed exactly right months or years ago can be critiqued as tired or overused. Lines that seemed intensely meaningful can be exposed as melodramatic and sentimental. A stanza that seemed evocative can be questioned as mud-thick obscure. After the bracing exposures of editorial sessions, re-writing requires a capacity to endure writing badly in repeated attempts to get a word or phrase or stanza that works. It means enduring frustration, waiting, tolerating the nay-saying inner voices, having patience. It involves the expectation of being surprised, of making something, and having words and phrases ‘given’ to you. Theologically, we might say it involves an expectation of grace. In similar ways, moral agency is about trying to be better through tedium, frustration, risk. We need others to tell us what we can’t see. We cannot rely wholly on our own efforts, but need to trust in grace, and the ways it manifests in frank and kind persons, in communities. Theologically, it is incarnation, following the Incarnate One.
The spirit of an incarnate life, that animates a desire to be better, is expressed in the following lines by a Christian mystic, Marguerite Porete (d. 1310) and a contemporary British psychoanalyst, Adam Phillips.
Where the more of my love is, there is the more of my treasure.
Desire is the wanting that comes from the part of ourselves that is without grievance.
The courses I teach reveal my interests, and include the following:
- Confessing to Love: Theology and Literature
- The Art of Theology: From Ancient to Contemporary Mysticism
- Sin-Talk: Historical and Feminist Perspectives
- God, Ethics and Social Media
- Sexual Ethics
- Violence & Theological Ethics
Dust or Fire. Goose Lane Editions/icehouse poetry, 2016.
Poems in literary journals:
“Portrait of my mother as black-capped chickadee,” “Portrait of my mother’s fox scream,” “Portrait of my mother as vintage glass juicer,” “Backyard ghost ship,” “So many brothers,” Riddle Fence 27 (Summer 2017): 71-74, 76-77.
“Portrait of my mother as Pope Innocent X,” “Portrait of my mother as Saint Felicitas,” “Portrait of my mother with wolf,” The Malahat Review (Spring 2016): 36-38.
Berlinale Erotik: Berlin Film Festival (Bitterzoet Press chapbook, 2015).
Essays in academic journals and books:
“Film, Parable, Reciprocity: Frederick Wiseman’s ‘Reality Fictions’ and Social Change.” Journal of Religion, Film and Media 2/2 (2016): 69-98
“Silence-effects: Frederick Wiseman’s Films as Parables,” in Silence and Religion and Film (2015).
“Helplessness as Sacred Human Calling: David Adams Richards’ God Is and Mercy Among the Children,” in Recognizing the Sacred in the Modern Secular: How the Sacred is to be discovered in Today’s World (2012).
“Ethical Solicitations and the Film Poetics of Michael Haneke’s Caché.” In Fascinatingly Disturbing: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Michael Haneke’s Cinema (2010).
Two poetry manuscripts:
i) Mother portraits
ii) How is Testamentary capacity impacted by physical abuse & neglect?
Freonskip and death: an exploration of friendship and death in selected Frisian poems, radiating out from Sjoerd Spanninga’s “De stille kreek” (“The quiet inlet”).