Transmitting Mishnah: The Shaping Influence of Oral by Elizabeth Shanks Alexander

By Elizabeth Shanks Alexander

Departing from the normal view of mishnaic transmission as senseless rote memorisation, Transmitting Mishnah unearths how multifaceted the method of passing on oral culture used to be in antiquity. profiting from the burgeoning box of orality experiences, Elizabeth Shanks Alexander has constructed a version of transmission that's either lively and positive. continuing via extensive readings of passages from tractate Shevuot and its Talmudic commentaries, Alexander signals us to the truth that transmitters and handlers of mishnaic textual content crafted either the vagaries of expression and its obtained meanings. She illustrates how the authority of the Mishnah grew because the results of the sustained realization of a faithful group of readers and scholars. She additionally identifies the learn practices and conduct of research that have been cultivated by means of oral functionality and exhibits how they have been handed on in tandem with the verbal contents of the Mishnah, thereby influencing how the textual content used to be got and understood.

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Extra resources for Transmitting Mishnah: The Shaping Influence of Oral Tradition

Sample text

Lieberman, HJP, 90. 49 Understanding was not important for the tanna because he was responsible only for verbatim reproduction of the fixed exemplar. In Lieberman’s view, oral performance of mishnaic text served only one purpose: to provide a means for reliably retrieving the text. Jacob Neusner provides further evidence for the fact that the college reciter could reproduce the mishnaic text at will. He analyzes the internal evidence of the Mishnah – that is, the mnemonic features encoded within the text – and proposes that they facilitated the rote memorization that Lieberman attributes to the reciters (tannaim).

In introducing his vision of how the “oral” and the “written” interact, he writes the following: “The readings that follow treat the material inscribed in the Mishnah as the foundation of a scripted performance. . The script or score is produced with the assumption that its meanings will be activated primarily in performance before an audience. Nevertheless, the performance is unalterably reflective of the prior labor of conception, compositional experimentation and editing which produces a script or score.

Adam Parry (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1928 repr. 1971), 1–190. See Lord’s development of the concept in The Singer of Tales, 30–67. Evaluation and critique of the Lord-Parry theory of oral composition can be found in Finnegan, Oral Poetry, 52–87, and Thomas, Literacy and Orality, 29–51. On the widespread applicability of the theory and its subsequent influence on the study of other oral and oral-derived bodies of literature, see also John Miles Foley, The Theory of Oral Composition: History and Methodology (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1988).

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