by Hannibal Hamlin
Warmest greetings to all in the CSR Community!
Though I know many of you who are Ohio State faculty, let me introduce myself to everyone as the Interim Director of the Center for Studies in Religion. First, though, thanks to Hugh Urban for his terrific job directing the Center over the past years! He also made my transition so much easier. Most importantly, we’re still reaping the benefits of the grant the Center received, under Hugh’s leadership, for the two-year-long “Living Well/Dying Well” program (about which more shortly). My own field is not religion per se, but English Literature. I specialize in the Renaissance period, and most of my work focuses on literature and religion, especially the English Bible and its literary/cultural influence. I am, you might say, one of those among us who studies religion, though not someone in Religious Studies.
My family is Unitarian, my wife’s is Mennonite, but I grew up in the Anglican Church of Canada, where I was a choirboy and later an adult singer, though as I moved into professional music-making I also sang in Catholic and United churches (the latter a Methodist-Presbyterian blend), as well as a synagogue and loads of concert halls. A vast amount of the vocal music repertoire is sacred or biblical, and decades of singing lodged passages deep in my head, which proved useful when I eventually arrived at graduate school and studied the Bible and religious history more seriously. The Bible is an inexhaustible collection of mesmerizing writing, and the history of its interpretation would take lifetimes to master. Nothing has had a greater influence on Western literature, and as I tell my students, vastly more copies of the Bible have been printed and disseminated than any other book in the history of the world. The historian Christopher Hill, who as a Communist had no vested interest in Christianity, wrote that if you read one book to understand seventeenth-century England it should be the Bible. But more than all this, the study of religion—whether Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or any other—draws me because it gets to what people hold most dear: good and evil, human nature, love and family, law and politics, temptation and sin, the meaning of life, which we all seek in one way or another.
Enough about me and my interests (though if you want more, I’m available for lunch or coffee anytime!). I’m delighted to announce that the Center for Studies in Religion has a year of terrific events and activities. This Fall, David Brakke will be giving a community lecture, “The Gnostic Jesus: The Divine Savior in The Gospel of Judas and Other Early Christian Writings,” based on his new translation and definitive commentary, coming out this spring. We’ll also be having at least one of our regular “No More Than a Page” discussions, letting us all explore the compelling work so many in the CSR community are doing. In the spring, the main event will be our two-day conference, The End of Life and What Comes Next: Perspectives from Healthcare, History, Anthropology, and Religion, March 29-April 1, featuring a keynote lecture by Thomas Laqueur, author of the brilliant The Work of the Dead, and a talk by Thomas Lynch, poet, best-selling author of The Undertaking: Life Studies in the Dismal Trade, and former funeral director. Other speakers will address topics including burial practices and the current migration crisis, healthcare and end of life issues, and death, burial, and the beyond in Southeast Asia, ancient China, and among African Americans.
CSR is also very happy to be co-sponsoring several lectures with other OSU centers (GO CENTERS!). In January, CSR and the Center for Folklore Studies are presenting Solimar Otero (Indiana University), author of Archives of Conjure: Stories of the Dead in Afrolatinx Cultures. On February 25, CSR and the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies are presenting Amy Appleford (Boston University), author of Learning to Die in London, 1380-1530. Finally, on April 14, CSR, American Indian Studies, and the Newark Earthworks Center are presenting Chadwick Allen, Co-Director of the University of Washington’s Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies, and author of the forthcoming Earthworks Rising: Mound Building in Native Literature and Arts. We also hope to arrange a visit to the Earthworks in conjunction with the lecture.
Even if you can attend only one of these events, I look forward to seeing you, but if you’re like me you’ll want to attend them all!