Textual Sounds of Orality

Samira Lindstedt (Oxford)

I have recently submitted my DPhil thesis, Prayer as Performance 1050–1250, in which I explored the ways in which extra-textual aspects of the manuscript page, particularly punctuation, rubrics, and mise-en-page, shaped the performance and significance of non-liturgical devotions. My research interests primarily centre on exploring how the manuscripts of non-liturgical pastoralia and devotional texts produced between 1050–1300 direct aspects of their reception and performance.For the reading group, I would like to discuss a pastoral text that I am currently editing, the Compileison de Dis Commandements. Composed between 1254–1274, this Norman French text is ideally suited to exploring questions of orality and performance for a variety of reasons. Originally compiled by a Franciscan friar, it describes itself as a sermon, consistently accompanying each reference to a reader with one to a listener. In addition to the first-person voice of the narrator and the genre of the text, the Compileison uses polyvocality to great effect in order to engage and instruct its audience: in the Prologue alone, for example, we “hear” the voices of the narrator, the audience, David, God, Christ, and the rich man of Matthew 19. Its manuscript contexts also indicate the expected oral reception and realisation of this text: the manuscripts are heavily punctuated, with the punctuation notably being corrected and emended in two of the three versions, and one of the manuscripts, Bodley 654, primarily contains other sermons in Latin and in Norman French. As such, we can consider not only the question of voices and personae in the narrative, but also explore the realisation of “ideal” versus “real”written inscriptions of orality, as seen in the speeches of the narrative and its punctuation and presentation. However, the Compileison is fairly long (the critical text runs to roughly 23 pages A4), so presenting an excerpt would probably be better.

Sophia Pitcher (Bloemfontein)

The medieval accentual notations of the Masoretic Text, known as the ṭaʿămê hammiqrāʾ, represent the proper intonement of the biblical text and have long been understood to be fundamentally prosodic in nature. However, the lack of a suitable framework for conceptualising the ṭaʿămê hammiqrāʾ has greatly hindered research on this prosodic system, leaving it largely opaque. This paper proposes that a cross-linguistic prosodic analysis of the ṭaʿămê hammiqrāʾ provides the “avenue for retrieving the oral dimension” of this system of notation in the Masoretic Text. Using advances in modern prosodic theory, this paper introduces the ṭaʿămêhammiqrāʾ as a prosodic orthography and presents a linguistic framework for interpreting this system’s features, structures, and functions. The robust theoretical framework of prosodic phonology makes sense of the system’s seemingly disparate features and underscores the essentially oral nature of the Hebrew Bible.Furthermore, situating the features of the ṭaʿămê hammiqrāʾ within a modern prosodic framework helps to explain why these graphemes have been and continue to be central to the oral performance and oral transmission of the biblical text.