Reviving Performance

Jaeyoung Jeon (Lausanne) [CANCELLED]

I am a biblical scholar preparing a research project on Orality and Textuality in the Hebrew Bible. My focus is to investigate the writing modes of ancient Jewish (Yehudite) scribes especially in the oration and performance contexts. The starting point is the recently renewed interests on orality in Bible studies especially in terms of scribes’ public reading and performance. The performative approach is quite popular in New Testament studies; but in Hebrew Bible studies, we are in a beginning stage. Basically the ancient Israel was oral society, and major Old Testament texts were meant to be publicly read or orated: Torah and prophetic texts were publicly read; prophet himself spoke or performed his prophecy with actions; also poetic texts and hymns were sung and performed publicly. Public readings or performances were primarily made by the scribes themselves. When that is presupposed, a scribe, either author or redactor, necessarily get into an “oral or performative” mindset during his writing process. Orality and textuality are interrelated through the scribes’ experiences and imaginations of oratory contexts; and the audiences become parts of scribal works. Such an “oral-scribal” mode may give fresh solutions to the difficult “literary problems” that puzzled Biblical scholars so far, e.g., awkward literary seams, redundant redactional passages and repetitions. Those literary“problems” may have had important functions and meanings in an oratory context. My aim is to redefine orality and textuality in the Hebrew Bible with a fresh look at the oral nature of ancient scribal works. Selected parts of the Pentateuch, Prophetic and poetic texts (Psalms for public worship) will be the target texts.

Jeffrey R. Tharsen (Chicago)

Digital texts and databases have begun to transform the way that we interact with textual traditions. For scholars of premodern eras, one of the abiding philological questions centers on the pronunciation of words and phrases; this presentation explains how parsing algorithms combined with historical linguistics can reveal the sounds of early Chinese works (ca 1050 BCE to 1100 CE), revealing long-lost phonetic patterns and “phonorhetoric”, and how this same method can be applied to other languages and traditions (premodern English poetry and prose as a specific example), allowing us to “hear” the voices of long-dead authors by using algorithms to approximate the phonetics and cadences of the original language of composition.