A Cognitive Poetics Approach to the Problem of Biblical Hebrew Poetic Lineation: Perception-Oriented Lineation of David's Lament in 2 Samuel 1:19–27


This study presents a fresh approach to the lineation of Biblical Hebrew poems by exploring the poetic line as a perceivable unit of structure that potentially emerges in the cognitive experience of reading or hearing a poem. Drawing from the cognitive poetics work of Reuven Tsur, it applies two cognitive constraints on versification—short-term memory and Gestalt principles—to the Biblical Hebrew poetic line. It accounts for the emergence of poetic lines in the performance experience as a dynamic mental process in which segments of text emerge as parts and wholes in relation to one another. This process is constrained not only by cognitive processing limitations but also by the combinational potential of elements of the text from all levels of language, as well as by reader/listener cooperation and expectations. This paper illustrates, in the context of David's lament for Saul and Jonathan, how a cognitive poetics perception-oriented approach can provide tools (though not rules) for lineating Biblical Hebrew poems. The value of this approach for interpretation is demonstrated in a brief discussion of the chiastic macrostructure that emerges from the lineation of David's lament.