While searching for something else yesterday, I came across the Chicago Maroon‘s 2008 interview of Jonathan Z. Smith, a leading historian of religion and author of several important books in the field, including Map Is Not Territory, Imagining Religion, and Drudgery Divine. You can find the full text of the interview here. If you have the time, I recommend the long version — there are some real gems embedded within it.
Smith disdains telephones, does not use computers, and originally wanted to study agriculture or “grass breeding.” After hearing a philosophy professor talking Hegel to a seminar, he so loved the idiom that he switched to philosophy.
Later, Smith decided to focus on Greek myth and asked a professor where he could study the subject as a graduate student, to which the professor replied: “Why don’t you go to Yale Divinity School and study the New Testament, it’s the biggest piece of Greek myth that’s still around.”
Smith did so and the rest is religious history.