Interview with 2024 Iles Award Winner Matt Maynard

Congratulations to CSR’s latest Iles Award winner, Matt Maynard!

Matt Maynard is a PhD candidate in Classics. He is writing a dissertation on the god Pan and ancient Greek ideas about wilderness. Shurouq Ibrahim, CSR’S Graduate Research Associate, sat down with Matt to see what the CSR’s Iles Award means for his research!

Shurouq: Could you tell us what you’re working on?

Matt Maynard

Matt: Sure. I’m a Ph.D student in the Department of Classics. I’m currently in the end stages of my dissertation work. I am planning to graduate this summer. About my work: I began my graduate stiduies with a general focus on the religious thought and practices of the ancient Greeks and then I came to focus on the god Pan in particular, who is a god who held particular significance to shepherds, and who was thought to dwell in the wild places of the world. At the same time, I’ve been digging into the newish field of eco-criticism and finding that some of the ideas that have come out of that field have potential to change the way that we read landscape and environment not only in literature but in other forms of  cultural expression like myth and religious beliefs, too. I have been bringing those ideas into my study of the god Pan to just think through Ancient Greek ideas about the natural world.

Shurouq: Nice, that’s fascinating! So you already touched on this, but how would you expand on this to say how your research intersects more with the study of religion?

I look at a number of texts and myths concerning Pan for my dissertation, but I focus primarily on a poem that’s known as the Homeric hymn to Pan, which was composed — we don’t know exactly — but some time in the 6th or 5th century B.C. As a hymn, the poem has a clear religious orientation, so a big part of what I am doing is commenting on the relationship between religion and the environment, and I look at other Greek hymns too and suggest that these occasions for religious expression were also felt by the Greeks to be apt occasions for reflections on human ecology, not just in terms of our place in the cosmos, but also more narrowly our place and function on the earth with regard to other life forms and materials that we share this place with.

Shurouq: Thank you. And my last question, how is the Iles Award meaningful for your research? How will you use it to expand on your work?

It’s a great encouragement first of all for me to keep working with these ideas, and it’s a real validation that my project has some legs. I would say it’s especially gratifying to see that people from outside of my home department saw some worth and took an interest in what I have been working on. Eco-criticism is by its nature an interdiscplinary field that seeks out and really needs conversation between people with different specializations. The financial support is of course very welcome, too. And getting to the end of a Ph.D I’m finding is a very hectic time, so the award has also made it possible to take a little bit of time and develop this project, hopefully, into something that’s publishable.

Shurouq: Wonderful! Thank you, Matt!

Why Study Religion? with Dr. Bradley Dubos

Why Study Religion? is a video series in which the CSR asks its faculty, students, staff, and guests what is important to them about the academic study of religion and why more folks should consider pursuing it. Find out more about the Center and its initiatives HERE. To learn more about OSU’s Religious Studies Major, visit our website at THIS LINK.

Why does Dr. Bradley Dubos, Provost’s Fellow in English and CSR affiliate faculty, think it’s important to study religion? Shurouq Ibrahim, CSR’s Graduate Research Associate interviewed Dr. Dubos to find out. Watch the video below for his response!

Shurouq: How would you answer the question: Why study religion?


Dr. Bradley Dubos:

So I study U.S. and indigenous literatures. And for me, there are really two major draws for thinking about religion and literature together.

The first is that religion is a site of incredible human creativity. Religion matters to so many people across different cultures throughout history, and when something matters, people get creative with it. So if we look at literary works, or art, or other works that address religious ideas, we’ll find that religion is often an opportunity for heightened creative expression, for stretching the imagination to make sense of some of these big, difficult questions that we confront. And we’ll also see writers and artists drawing on religion as a resource for creative forms of community building and placemaking. One of the things that interests me about early American history in particular is that many of the earliest and most influential Native American and African American writers are deeply engaged with religious beliefs and vocabularies and spaces. But they also powerfully transform these beliefs and vocabularies and spaces in totally creative and visionary ways that continue to shape what America is today. So that’s creativity.

The other draw for me is that studying religion can help us understand how important religion is to how we organize and experience our worlds — so our sense of place. And we could think of this in really big terms. What is the relationship between Earth and the cosmos? Why are we here? What is our purpose? What are our responsibilities on this planet? But we could also scale it down and think about it on a more everyday level. So, living in the United States, just moving through our daily lives, we might pass different places of worship. We might come across places that considered sacred or set apart in some way, such as cemeteries. We might see religious language and iconography around us, even in supposedly secular or political spaces. There’s a true diversity of beliefs and practices reflected around us that are carving out all these different religious spaces. And so, even for those who don’t identify as religious, these religious landscapes still impact the ways that we all orient ourselves and move through the world.

Dr. Bradley Dubos is a Provost’s Fellow in Native American Literature and Culture in the Department of English. He is a collaborative faculty member in the American Indian Studies program and a faculty affiliate of the Center for the Study of Religion. Dr. Dubos specializes in pre-1900 U.S. literatures and Native American and Indigenous literatures. His research interests include Indigenous poetry, American religious traditions, placemaking, and place-based pedagogy. To read more about Dr. Dubos’ research, please visit his professional profile