The Literary Structures of Ancient Jewish Literature: AHRC Workshop at the University of Manchester 11-12 July 2011


Lecturers, post-docs and research students working on any ancient Jewish text are invited to participate in a workshop at Manchester University from July 11-12, 2011.

The workshop offers an opportunity to discuss how methods of literary analysis can be applied to the texts of ancient Judaism. How does one determine the overall voice of the text? What can one say about that voice’s “perspective”? What does it mean if a text does not acknowledge its own “existence” at all, and what role do secondary titles play? What status should be assigned to manifest internal differences (“sources”) in the context of a literary analysis of the whole? Does “synchronic” analysis mean one has to justify the text’s unity? What conceptual tools are available for understanding the difference between narrative and discourse, or the fusion of the two, in ancient Jewish literature? What role do small recurrent literary forms play in discourse and in narrative? How is explicit commentary on Bible different from implicit commentary? These and similar questions, discussed with constant reference to real examples from the ancient Jewish sources, will concern us during the workshop. Participants are invited to make suggestions, before or during the workshop, on what texts or literary puzzles they would like to see discussed in more detail.

The context of the workshop is an AHRC Project on the literary structures of the anonymous and pseudepigraphic literature of Jewish antiquity. This includes the “Old Testament” Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls and rabbinic literature. However, we anticipate that the discussion will also make forays into biblical texts (both OT and NT) and “authored” texts, Philo and Josephus. The Project has a strong comparative dimension.

The workshop will start by introducing two new tools: first, the Project’s “Inventory of Structurally Important Literary Features”; and second, the “Database of Literary Profiles of Anonymous and Pseudepigraphic Texts”. Participants will have pre-publication access to the Database for the duration of the event and will be able to apply these tools to specific texts or raise problems of literary structures relevant to their own research.

Alex Samely will lead the workshop and be supported by other members of the Project team – Philip Alexander, Rocco Bernasconi, Hedva Abel and Aron Sterk.

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