S19-332a Sensory Perception in the Bible and Early Judaism and Christianity
4:00 PM to 5:45 PM
Room: S103d - McCormick Place
Theme: Reading Scripture through a Sensory Lens
Gideon W. Park, Vanderbilt University
Sensory Appeal in the Wisdom Literature: A Performative Reading of Proverbs 7 (25 min)
Sensory Appeal in the Wisdom Literature: A Performative Reading of Proverbs 7
A mashal is a rhetorically persuasive saying rendered in poetic form that draws upon the hearer's sensory faculties. Proverbs 7 is a rich example of sensory appeal enhancing moral instruction in the Wisdom Literature. My aim in this paper, then, is to underscore the performative style of communication in Proverbs 7. I begin with a brief word on methodology, locating my approach within performance criticism. Then I demonstrate my performative reading by paying attention to three aspects of the text: (1) altered mode of communication; (2) aesthetic description; (3) spatial movement. First, the text exhibits a shift in its mode of communication from deductive (vv. 1-5) to inductive instruction (vv. 6-27) for dramatic effect. Second, the inductive instruction is filled with rich descriptions of the woman to appeal to the senses: the reader sees her dress (v. 10); feels her lips (v. 13); hears her footsteps (vv. 11-12); etc. Third, throughout chapter 7 there is movement in terms of place and perspective: from the father to the woman, from the height of a lattice window to the depths of Sheol. Finally, I conclude with reflections on the advantages of applying performance criticism to biblical texts.