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separating church and school

Sarah's picture

The thing that struck me most about the last reading was the writer's devotion to God and how she understood this devotion to be essential to learning.  I'm so used to "separation of church and state" that being asked to "pray" as part of our class on Thursday caught me off guard.  As someone who is not religious, I wasn't really sure how to pray or what to expect in response if I don't believe there is a God.  At one point she discusses how difficult it is to learn from text alone rather than a teacher and says "yet I suffered these trial most gladly for the love of learning.  Oh, if only this had been done for the love of God, as was rightful, think what I should have merited!" (53).  I think this is so interesting because the general message I receive on Bryn Mawr campus is that learning for the sake of learning is one of the best/most admirable attitudes to have, but the writer of this piece is left feeling guilty for her personal love of learning because she feels as though she is being selfish and giving proper respect to God.  The writer's tone of humility or even unworthiness also struck me; she states "all that I have said can do no more than other that letter to you in recompense for the failure to apply myself which you must have inferred (and reasonably so) from my other writings." (45)  I wonder if this tone has to do with her religious beliefs, or her gender.  From what I gathered, she seemed highly educated and this was written at a time when women didn't have much access to education.  It was frustrating to me how down the author was on herself, and I wasn't sure the reason: because of her religion or gender? Because this is what letters of gratitude were expected to be like?