This is the fourth in a series of interviews conducted by the Woodruff Library with the 2014-2015 Woodruff Library and Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) Fellows. Funded by the Laney Graduate School School, the Woodruff Library and Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) awards fellowships to advanced graduate students expecting to complete their dissertations by the end of the fellowship period. Fellows are placed within the Woodruff Library and ECDS to work in an area related to their subject specialization or interest, culminating in a formal presentation in the Spring.
An Interview with Brandon Wason
Woodruff: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your favorite book? What’s your favorite thing about Emory/Atlanta? Etc.
Brandon: I’m originally from Orange County, California. My wife and I moved to Atlanta in 2006 when I enrolled in the Master of Theological Studies program at Candler School of Theology. We liked Emory so much that I stuck around to do a PhD in the Graduate Division of Religion. In 2012, my wife and I welcomed a baby boy. We all live in Tucker with two cats, who aren’t as crazy about our son as we are. As for books, I don’t have a single favorite. Some books, such as the Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, I enjoy reading in small doses. I’ll sometimes revisit Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy because it was one of the first books to spark my interest in literature. I also love a good play by Aristophanes and did I mention that my academic work focuses on the Bible? So you could say that I enjoy that book as well. When we first moved to Atlanta we were greeted by the pervasive August humidity. It was a bit of an adjustment! Once fall arrived, the cool weather and the beautiful autumn leaves won us over. My only complaint is how quickly fall comes and goes. But, despite fall’s appeal, I’d say that the friendships that we’ve made here is what we cherish the most.
Woodruff: What are you researching for your dissertation?
Brandon: The title of my dissertation is “All Things to All People: Luke’s Paul as an Orator in Diverse Social Contexts.” Paul the apostle is one of the most important figures in early Christianity, and he is best known for his letters and the extensive account written about him in the book of Acts. My interest lies in the way that Luke, the author of Acts, presents Paul as a gifted public speaker, which is not the impression one gets from Paul’s own letters. Luke’s representation of Paul in the speeches is dynamic because Luke characterizes Paul differently in each social context that he speaks. When addressing a Jewish audience in Antioch, Paul is a prophetic interpreter of Israel’s scriptures. When addressing Greeks in Athens, Paul is a philosopher. When addressing Christian leaders in Miletus, Paul is a pastor. And when he testifies before King Agrippa, Paul functions as his own defense attorney. My dissertation draws on ancient Greek and Roman rhetorical writings, particularly the works known as the progymnasmata, in order to better grasp the way that Luke constructs Paul’s image in Acts. The purpose of my dissertation is to understand Luke’s own theological and literary voice, rather than to judge his work on its usefulness of getting at the historical Paul.
Woodruff: What interested you about the Woodruff Library Fellowship?
Brandon: As an aspiring academic librarian, the Woodruff Library Fellowship was very appealing to me. I have previously worked in cataloging, reference, circulation, and technical services in smaller libraries, but this fellowship was an opportunity to gain more experience working alongside subject librarians and to face new challenges in a large university library.
Woodruff: What will you be working on this year for your Woodruff Library Fellowship?
Brandon: I will be assisting Kim Collins, Art History and Classics Librarian, in performing an assessment of the classics collection and library services. Since my undergraduate work was in classics and my current research focuses on the ancient world, it seemed like a good fit. I will be working with faculty to see that their library needs are met, selecting books for the classics collection, promoting and developing library resources for classics, and participating in an Emory Center for Digital Scholarship project that examines the network of sea-travel associated with ancient Samothrace.