The sounds of the psalter /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Benner, Drayton C., author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (284 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
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Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: Dennis G. Pardee Committee members: John A. Goldsmith; Rebecca Hasselbach-Andee.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-02(E), Section: A.
Summary:Scholars have long analyzed Biblical Hebrew poetry on a number of levels, yet consonance has received less attention than most other literary devices. Moreover, even when consonance has been studied, scholars have usually focused on consonance only at the level of the line or the poetic verse to the exclusion of larger poetic units, and these discussions of consonance have not generally been integrated meaningfully with an understanding of the structure, rhetoric, meaning, or function of poems as a whole. In addition, the number of phonemes in Biblical Hebrew is naturally limited, so repetition of phonemes is inevitable, regardless of whether the repetition is artistic. Yet in previous studies of consonance in this poetic corpus, scholarly intuition has traditionally been the sole guide for distinguishing between the results of chance and artistic consonance.
This dissertation aims to fill these lacunae in previous studies of consonance in Biblical Hebrew poetry. In terms of scope, it focuses on a single sizable corpus of Biblical Hebrew that unambiguously consists of poetry, namely the Book of Psalms. The critical eye and ear are of great importance in identifying artistic consonance, yet a quantitative approach is used herein as a methodological control to help distinguish between artistic consonance and the results of chance and a limited phonemic inventory. In many cases the critical eye and ear can be buttressed by showing that the repetition of phonemes is statistically anomalous and plausibly artistic. In addition, computational approaches can be used to scan an entire corpus rapidly in order to aid the researcher in finding passages of poetry that contain statistically anomalous uses of sound, and the researcher can then subject those passages to close reading.
My central claim is that consonance was an important artistic device available to ancient Israelite poets and that an understanding of it can help the modern critic better to appreciate the aesthetics of Biblical Hebrew poetry as well as better understand its structure and meaning. There are two main ways in which ancient Israelite poets employed consonance. First, they employed consonance on a consonantal phoneme in a section of a poem for artistic effect. In addition to the pleasing aesthetics, this type of consonance makes lines more memorable, which is especially important in a primarily oral society. It also binds together poetic units more tightly than they otherwise would have been bound, just as is the case with semantic and grammatical parallelism, reinforcing the poetic structure. Second, ancient Israelite poets employed consonance on the sounds from a key word in the poem or a significant section thereof, reinforcing the theme of the poem. In addition to these two major ways in which ancient Israelite poets employed consonance, there is also one psalm in which the poet used consonance creatively across the poem to reinforce the structure of the poem and in a way that dovetailed with its function in Israelite society.
This study of consonance in Biblical Hebrew poetry addresses a traditional question of interest to biblical scholars and, more broadly, literary scholars. However, it also interfaces with another interdisciplinary field of inquiry: digital humanities. This study is an example of one type of digital humanities project in which the methods and techniques of computer science are employed in order to address traditional research questions in the humanities. It is hoped that this study will serve as a model of such scholarship. By combining detailed knowledge of Biblical Hebrew poetry and detailed knowledge of computer science in a novel way, our understanding of consonance in the Book of Psalms is improved.