Humans of the ISM | Oana Marian, M.Div. ’17

Literature, Religion and the Arts, Student Life, Yale Divinity School

What is gratifying about being in the ISM is the intersection between academics and creative work. When I was an undergrad here at Yale, studying English and poetry, I sort of felt like a failed academic. I didn’t know what the options were, what else I could be apart from an academic, and being an artist or poet felt inaccessible. My dream in high school was to live in New York as a writer, and then in 2010, I was living in New York as a writer! It was not at all what I imagined it would be. Coming back to Yale through the ISM does feel like coming back full circle, and also it was a chance for me to do things in a better way. There is a tension between the kind of encyclopedic thinking that I feel as a creative person, and the need for academics to narrow and focus all the time, so I feel those are two opposing forces, but it’s a productive conflict.

The best thing I can do as a writer is to be around as many different kinds of people with different filters of seeing the world. It’s not my filter, but I can learn from that. My first grad program was in poetry and writing, and I went a little deaf by the end of it. We were talking about words all the time, but you need to look at things from different perspectives and find different sources of inspiration.

I worked in the film industry for about eight years before coming here. I started when I went to Romania in 2004 to work on a short film in Bucharest. I had spent the whole year – 2003-2004 – fighting depression with movies, so I was watching a movie a day for an entire year, and really getting an education about filmmaking. I have worked in every department other than makeup and electric, but I’ve done art direction, costume, set photography, even sound. I mostly did it because I wanted to learn how to make movies and I didn’t want to go to film school. I’ve made a short film that my brother and I wrote together. We shot it in 2008, a long time ago, but I have always thought I’ll get back into filmmaking in some way, though I’d probably be interested in making movies that don’t create a lot of trash. Cinema is a hugely wasteful industry, so documentary is better in a lot of ways because you’re not creating sets and the like. Recently I represented a friend’s documentary at the Boston Film Festival, and reminded me how beautiful the language of cinema can be. It was a documentary about the Coppola family, made by a friend who lives in a little town called Bernalda, in southern Italy, which is the village the Coppola family is from. 

I’m not sure how preaching and theology classes are connected to that, but I think they are. It’s all connected. It’s important for me to let my life lead me, even if the direction doesn’t always seem to make obvious sense. 

Oana Marian, M.Div. ’17, came to the ISM primarily because she wanted to study with Christian Wiman, but many more things have opened up to her. She was born in Cluj, Romania, moved to Connecticut when she was 8, and lived on the East Coast until 2004. She comes to YDS and the ISM from the UK, where she lived in a wonderful village in the Lake District for just under a year. 

Interview and Photo by Tara Jamali, M.A.R. ’17