In the short time that she’s been at Tyndale, Dr. Natasha Duquette has already become a staple persona in the lively excitement that defines Tyndale University College. Engaging in passionate discourse on all things poetic and sublime with both fellow professors and students alike, Dr. Duquette brings a hard-driving work ethic mixed with a warm whimsical delight that is not easy to find. This aspect of her character was demonstrated especially for me when I took her Aesthetics course, where she had the entire class join in celebratory hymn singing. By the end of the second verse, there was a sense of buzzing contentedness as we all grinned at each other and took our seats with hearts a little bit lighter. She possesses sharp academic prowess and a unique level of empathy and kindness, and so I’m thankful she has been led back to her home country of Canada to participate in this thrilling period of Tyndale’s history, after spending time teaching in the United States.
I sat down with Dr. Duquette to find out about her Tyndale experience so far.
How is Tyndale different from other institutions at which you’ve taught?
In terms of faith-based institutions, I have come to realize Tyndale is quite different from many in the United States. Our student body is much more internationally diverse and theologically varied. I love that we have Coptic Orthodox students from Egypt, Charismatic Pentecostals from Zimbabwe, and Ukrainian Catholics, all together in one classroom. There is a freedom and flexibility found through Tyndale’s diversity in unity. St. Thomas Aquinas called this type of diversity in unity “multitudo.” The racial, ethnic, and theological differences at Tyndale are a beautiful reflection of the Canadian value of celebrating cultural mosaics as an aesthetically pleasing form of diversity in unity.
What do you most look forward to in this upcoming academic year?
Teaching my upper-division Jane Austen course and staging a production of T. S. Eliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral are both exciting prospects for me. The Eliot play is about the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Staging this play in our sublime chapel at Tyndale will have a stunning impact. On the Austen side, it is interesting to me that the Austen course is about half male students. In Southern California it was harder to get the guys (students and faculty) excited about Austen. I love how Torontonian men respect Austen’s craft as a writer.
You just released a newly published book called Veiled Intent, can you tell us a little about that?
This project was truly a labour of love over many years. The full title of the book is Veiled Intent: Dissenting Women’s Aesthetic Approach to Biblical Interpretation. In it I analyse eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century women’s hymns, philosophies of art and aesthetics, lyric poetry, epics, plays, devotional works for children, and letters. Women in Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Methodist, and Moravian churches were studying scripture with passionate intensity but often not encouraged to share their insightful and unique biblical interpretation publically through works of theology or sermons. Therefore, they veiled their significant multi-linguistic learning and biblical analysis in forms viewed as more acceptable from a female pen. These women were self-taught, often from their father’s libraries, and could quote Augustine in Latin with relative ease, as well as cite specific forms of persecution faced by early Christians in Rome under Nero. They were not light weight scholars; they were simply barred, as women, from formal education and from the ability to earn university degrees for their research and writing. So, they found innovative ways around these barriers.