Watson - Classical Hebrew Poetry

Watson - Classical Hebrew Poetry
The origins of the present work lie in my unpublished doctoral dissertation (1973, on Isa 1-66) of which a considerable section dealt with poetic devices and, in part, with poetic technique. My interest in poetry since led to extensive reading in literary criticism, particularly studies with a linguistic approach. The impetus for actually writing a book came from Dr John Gibson while I was at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, Edinburgh.
Whether consciously or not the model I have followed in my presentation has been Geoffrey Leech's A linguistic guide to English poetry, an invaluable beginner's textbook. This is apparent from the term 'Guide' common to both works and is even more evident from my basic layout. Like Leech I use worked examples throughout, aim at providing clear explanations of technical points, list passages for private study and give individual bibliographies for each topic.
Of course I do not agree with Leech on every point, notably on hyperbole, but in the main his Guide has been mine, too. This book is intended principally for readers with a good working knowledge of classical Hebrew. Some acquaintance at least with either Ugaritic or Akkadian (or both, of course) is preferable but not expected. To a certain extent, also, the book can be used by someone conversant with none of these languages since translations are always provided.

Wilfred G.E. Watson - Classical Hebrew Poetry

Copyright © 1984, 1986 JSOT Press
Published by JSOT Press
Departmenl of Biblical Studies The University of Sheffield
Sheffield S10 2TN
Printed in Great Britain
by Redwood Burn Ltd.,
Trowbridge, Wiltshire.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Watson, Wilfred G.E
Classical Hebrew poetry · a guide to its techniques.—2nd ed.—(Journal for the study of the Old Testament supplement series, ISSN 0309-0787, 26)
1. Hebrew poetry—History and criticism
I. Title II. Series
ISBN 0-905774-57-4
ISBN 1-85075-048-3 Pbk

Wilfred G.E. Watson - Classical Hebrew Poetry - Scope and Aims

A textbook or manual of poetry should be the end-product of close and detailed analysis of the poetry in question. Implied, therefore, is a long period of study. A further requisite is the assertion of an overall theory which will account for the findings and provide a framework within which they can be presented in a coherent way.

Turning to classical Hebrew poetry, it would appear than analytical studies are by no means lacking. Also, these investigations have been carried out for hundreds of years.1 All that is missing, it seems, is a systematic presentation of the findings, based on established theory.
However, things are not so simple. In spite of many centuries' study, detailed analysis of all the poetic texts has not yet been completed. This is in part due to the same set of texts being chosen for study (Gen 49; Ex 15; Jgs 5; Isa 1-12; particular Psalms) to the exclusion of others. 
Another reason is that the main interest of commentators is exegesis, so that remarks on poetic technique are more or less of a random nature.3 The principal reason, though, is of a different order: it is only since the discovery of poetic texts in Ugaritic and Akkadian that certain techniques of poetry could be recognised in Hebrew.


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