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Biblical Narrative and the Death of the Rhapsode

Robert S. Kawashima

Publication Year: 2004

Informed by literary theory and Homeric scholarship as well as biblical studies, Biblical Narrative and the Death of the Rhapsode sheds new light on the Hebrew Bible and, more generally, on the possibilities of narrative form. Robert S. Kawashima compares the narratives of the Hebrew Bible with Homeric and Ugaritic epic in order to account for the "novelty" of biblical prose narrative. Long before Herodotus or Homer, Israelite writers practiced an innovative narrative art, which anticipated the modern novelist's craft. Though their work is undeniably linked to the linguistic tradition of the Ugaritic narrative poems, there are substantive differences between the bodies of work. Kawashima views biblical narrative as the result of a specifically written verbal art that we should counterpose to the oral-traditional art of epic. Beyond this strictly historical thesis, the study has theoretical implications for the study of narrative, literature, and oral tradition.

Indiana Studies in Biblical Literature -- Herbert Marks, General Editor

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. ix-x

This book originated in my encounter with Ann Banfield’s groundbreaking work Unspeakable Sentences. In this remarkable study she characterized the language of the novel in terms of two syntactic features: the narrative preterite (passé simple) and the representation of consciousness (style indirect libre), neither of which appears in the spoken language. She also ...

ABBREVIATIONS

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pp. xi-xii

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1. INTRODUCTION:THE NOVELTY OF BIBLICAL NARRATIVE

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pp. 1-16

Plato’s Ion begins with the eponymous rhapsode, who has just arrived from a competition where he took first prize for his performance of Homer, crossing paths with Socrates. The philosopher immediately engages him in a discussion of his craft, professing, in his characteristically ironic fashion, envy of the rhapsode’s art: ...

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2. FROM SONG TO STORY: THE GENESIS OF NARRATIVE IN JUDGES 4 AND 5

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pp. 17-34

Ever since the publication of Albert B. Lord’s book The Singer of Tales, hisclassic comparative study of Homeric and Serbo-Croatian oral epic, various attempts have been made to apply his theories not only to biblical poetry but to biblical narrative as well.1 More recent literary studies by Robert Alter, Adele Berlin, and Meir Sternberg,2 however, have seriously called ...

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3. NARRATION AND DISCOURSE: THE LINGUISTIC DUALISM OF BIBLICAL NARRATIVE AND ITS LITERARY CONSEQUENCES

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pp. 35-76

“Shibboleth,” one of the few Hebrew words to enter the English language, refers in its original context to the mispronunciation of some sound or word. It takes for granted, in other words, a norm which certain linguistic performances fall short of, as when a foreigner presumes to speak a community’s native tongue. Consider the etymological ur-story in Judges: ...

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4. REPRESENTED CONSCIOUSNESS IN BIBLICAL NARRATIVE

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pp. 77-123

In a well-known story in Numbers, Moses sends twelve Israelite spies to reconnoiter the as yet unconquered land of Canaan. Awed by what they see, they convince the Israelites not to enter the land for fear of its mighty inhabitants: “And there we saw the Nephilim, Anakites of the Nephilim. And we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes”...

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5. BIBLICAL TIME AND EPIC TIME: FROM GRAMMAR TO NARRATIVE TECHNIQUE

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pp. 124-160

In his famous study of nationalism Benedict Anderson draws attention to the novel’s striking ability (taken for granted by most of its readers) to recount simultaneous events: Consider first the structure of the old-fashioned novel, a structure typical not only of the masterpieces of Balzac but also of any contemporary dollar-dreadful. It is clearly a device for the presentation ...

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6. THE ART OF BIBLICAL NARRATIVE AS TECHNIQUE: MAKING STRANGE THE TRADITION

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pp. 161-189

In the preceding chapters I have provided a series of arguments for viewing biblical narrative as the product of a written verbal art that should be counterposed to the oral verbal art of Homer and the Ugaritic narrative poems. At the same time, however, biblical narrative shares certain formal compositional devices with oral-traditional poetry, and a number of scholars ...

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7. CONCLUSION: TOWARD AN ARCHAEOLOGY OF ANCIENT ISRAELITE KNOWLEDGE

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pp. 190-214

There is a tradition of scholarship attempting to account for biblical narrative’s peculiar artistic merits with reference to the distinctiveness of Israelite religion. Von Rad, for instance, in his study of Israel’s historical writing, found one of its enabling factors in the “unique religious conceptions of this people”: ...

NOTES

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pp. 215-268

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 269-284

INDEX

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pp. 285-293


E-ISBN-13: 9780253003201
E-ISBN-10: 0253003202
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253344779

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Indiana Series in Biblical Literature