Dr. Roshan Abraham: A Day Lecturer’s Origin Story

A picture of Roshan Abraham at a microphone speaking.

Dr. Roshan Abraham is our 2019 Day Lecturer. Prof. Newton was able to chat with him to learn a little bit more about his training and his scholarship.

We’ve heard you’ll be talking about the Bible and comics. Comics often involve origin stories. What’s your scholarly origin story?

I don’t really have a simple story about my academic training; I got to the study of religion through a very circuitous route. I’ll try to keep it brief.

I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Kansas, majoring in English and Classical Languages. When I went on to my PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania, I became interested in the ethnography of India in Greek Literature, which lead my to Apollonius of Tyana, the first century Neopythagorean sage who journeyed to India to study with the Brahmans. At the same time, I developed an interest in ancient magic, and, as luck would have it, a central part of Apollonius’ biography was the accusation of being a magos (a “magician”). At this point, all of my training was as a classicist, but, having grown up as a PK (preacher’s kid), it was hard for me not to notice similarities between Apollonius’ biography and the synoptic gospels.

 

You can learn more about Prof. Abraham’s work on the many lives of
Apollonius on the podcast, Hold That Thought.

The year I started my dissertation was the same year Annette Reed joined the religious studies department at Penn, which was on the other end of the hall from Classical Studies. Annette introduced me to the study of religion and, over the course of writing my dissertation, gave me all of my initial training in religious studies. I’d audit her courses, she’d give me reading lists, and, despite the fact that she wasn’t on my dissertation committee, she would spend countless hours discussing second temple Judaism, early Christianity, and religious studies theory and methodology. I got hooked quickly, but, since all of my religious studies training was essentially “off the books,” the likelihood of being able to continue in the field was very slim.

I was lucky, however, to have been hired at Washington University in St. Louis, jointly appointed in the Department of Classics and the Program in Religious Studies. During my time at WashU, I had so many opportunities to engage with Religious Studies, through teaching, advising, curriculum development, and professional service, and I found my disciplinary home in the academic study of religion.

Honestly, one of the many honors of having been invited to give the Day Lecture is knowing that Annette Reed is going to be your Aronov lecture in the same academic year.
I left WashU in 2016, due to a family decision to move to the DC area, and have since been following a non-traditional route in the academy. After three years of adjuncting at Georgetown, George Mason, and American University, I was hired as an advisor/instructor in American University’s First Year Program. I’m fortunate to have found a full-time position that still grants me opportunities to teach religious studies.

A gif of the A-team discussing how, "I love it when a plan comes together."

And we are fortunate to have you both visiting us here at The University of Alabama. Can you give us a little preview of what you’ll be discussing.
My talk is centered around the question: why does the Noah story have so much saliency right now in comics? The question arose after seeing three different comic book stories adapting or in some way inspired by the Biblical story of the Great Flood: Cullen Bunn and Juan Doe’s Dark Ark, Jason Aaron and r.m. Guera’s The Goddamned, and Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel, and Niko Henrichon’s Noah (the graphic novel on which the Russel Crowe movie is based). These works are not merely adaptations, however, since the visual language of comics makes these works into acts of translation. I draw on Walter Benjamin’s theory of translation as an act of creation, belonging to the after-life of a text. I’ll be looking at how the visual language of comics reveal how new layers of meaning and interpretation are added on to the text and how these layers of meaning connect with political and theological agendas. This is equally found in confessional adaptations of the bible, such as in The Action Bible and The Kingstone Bible, works that are explicitly designed for theological education and proselytization.

We look forward to hearing more!

Mark your calendars for the 2019 Day Lecture with Dr. Roshan Abraham. Tuesday, October 15, 2019 at 7:00pm in ten Hoor 30. And tune in Friday to the Study Religion blog to find out more about Dr. Abraham, his research, and his teaching. To keep up on social media, follow along at #Day2019.

 

The 6th Annual Day Lecture

The Department of Religious Studies hosted its 6th annual Day Lecture. The series (established, by his family, in the memory of REL grad Zachary Day) focuses on religion and popular culture, attracting students from across campus.
Continue reading

5 Questions with Teemu Taira

With the annual Day Lecture at the end of October, we posed a few questions to our upcoming guest, Prof. Teemu Taira (pictured above at Malham Cove, Yorkshire Dales, England).

Q: Can you tell us a little about your background: what did you first go to university to study and how did you come across the academic study of religion? Was it always clear that a future career in the university was ahead for you?

A: I did not even think of any other options than going to the university, although I had no close relatives or friends who had studied at the university. The tricky thing was to decide what to study. In Finland students are selected on the basis of exams and you have to read 1 or 2 books, so I browsed the exam books from different disciplines. I considered philosophy, history of ideas, and anthropology, but I ended up studying religion. When people ask why study of religion, I usually tell them three narratives. Continue reading

#Day2018 is here

Tonight: #Day2018 — our fifth annual Day Lecture. The topic of this series is religion in pop culture and tonight we have Dr. Elijah Siegler visiting campus — he had a busy day yesterday of visiting with faculty and students — who will be talking about the Coen Brothers’ movies. It’s in Smith Hall 205 this year, starting at 7 pm.

Looking for a crash course on Coen movies…?

See you there!

#Day2018

Photo of Elijah Siegler

We’re very pleased to announce that Dr. Elijah Siegler, of the College of Charleston, will be our 2017-18 Day Lecturer.

The date for the event is still to be set, but we anticipate it being early in the Spring 2018 semester and we’re looking forward to Dr. Siegler being on campus for a couple days, visiting classes and meeting with students and faculty.

In his public lecture, Dr, Siegler will be speaking on what a scholar of religion might have to say about the films of the Coen brothers. His title: Myth, Meaning and Morality in the Films of the Coen Brothers.

Know their work?

For more on the Day Lecture, visit it’s page on the Department website.

This event is free and open to the public.

The 4th Annual Day Lecture, Episode 5

day4edited

Dr. Jason Bivins speaking, prior to his lecture, with Charles Day, whose family and friends have generously made this series possible.

In this concluding episode of our five-part series on the 4th Day Lecture, Dr. Bivins summarizes the central themes of his lecture, providing a few closing remarks on the commonalities between religion and jazz.

If you want to learn more about the Annual Day Lecture, click here.

The Fourth Annual Day Lecture 2016: Dr. Jason Bivins, Episode 5 from UA Religious Studies.

Every episode of the Day Lecture is available here.

The 4th Annual Day Lecture, Episode 4

day3edited

Dr. Jason Bivins speaking with audience members after the conclusion of his lecture; at the far left is Mr. Charles Day, whose family & friends have made this series possible.

In the fourth episode of this five-part series, Dr. Bivins presents his second case study on Sun Ra, an American jazz composer from the 1960s well known for his experimental music and cosmic philosophies. Continue reading

The 4th Annual Day Lecture, Episode 3

day2edited

Spirits Rejoice! by Dr. Jason Bivins discusses in further detail the research he presented in his lecture on jazz and religion. 

In this third installment of the 4th Day Lecture, Dr. Bivins introduces one of the many case studies from his book Spirits Rejoice!. This case study focuses on Albert Ayler, a jazz composer from the 1960s who “proceeded from a predictable location into something wild.” Continue reading

The 4th Annual Day Lecture, Episode 2

day1

An attentive audience listens to Dr. Jason Bivins present his lecture on the “smoky” associations between jazz and religion.

In this second installment of the 4th Day Lecture, Dr. Bivins explains exactly why everything seems so smoky to him and provides an overview of how he set about conducting his research. Continue reading