4.0121 Midrash and Collage (2/62)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 24 May 90 16:04:04 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0121. Thursday, 24 May 1990.

(1) Date: Wed, 23 May 1990 21:44:57 EDT (30 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: collage, biblical narrative structure, and e-mail

(2) Date: Thu, 24 May 90 09:10:07 EDT (32 lines)
From: Tzvee Zahavy <MAIC@UMINN1>
Subject: Midrash and collage

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 23 May 1990 21:44:57 EDT
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: collage, biblical narrative structure, and e-mail

Bernie Levinson's reference to Robert Alter's The Art of Biblical
Narrative is a useful one. Alter's book is interesting but not, in my
view, as good as it could have been if the author had not fought so hard
to avoid the idea of typology, especially as developed by Erich Auerbach
and studied by such people as Jean Danielou. (Alter actually detours to
Homeric criticism to pick up the notion of "type scenes" rather than to
get what he needs from the biblical tradition itself.) The question of
structure in a work constructed out of fragmentary sources is a
particularly relevant one for scholars of electronic communication to
consider, since the proceedings of an electronic seminar are radically
discontinuous. Is it too much, too wild to suppose that exegetical
skills honed on the Bible and other patchwork texts would prove
effective in dealing with such radically discontinuous sources as
e-seminars or other multidimensional conversations?

By "patchwork" I imply no disrespect of the texts in question. As
Auerbach showed masterfully for the Bible, a collage of disjunct,
contradictory, or repetitive segments can be more powerful by far than
any smooth, logical sequence of prose could ever manage. Breathtaking,
in fact. Of course, the collected works of Humanist ain't no Bible.
I'm thinking merely of certain rudimentary, yet strikingly unknown,
techniques for dealing with text that comes in seemingly undigested

Willard McCarty
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------35----
Date: Thu, 24 May 90 09:10:07 EDT
From: Tzvee Zahavy <MAIC@UMINN1>
Subject: Midrash and collage

I do hope Mr. Bregman will read the penetrating critiques of Jacob
Neusner regarding recent work on midrash. Neusner insists that each
collection of midrashic comments has an agendum reacting to specific
historical, social and economic circumstances. Each midrashic
collection has its own view of the world embedded in the various
comments to individual verses. The notion of midrash as collage appears
to me at first glance to defy this systematic conclusion and offer in
its stead a rather vague and listless substitute. I suggest for a
summary of Neusner's method and conclusions _Canon and Connection:
Intertextuality in Judaism_, UPA:1987. The author summarizes his studies
of Mishnah, Talmud and major midrashic works such as Leviticus Rabbah,
Sifra, Sifre, Pesiqta deRab Kahana, analyzing the relation to scripture
in each case, the logic and rhetoric of each document, the topic and
proposition in each program. He concludes with a vigorous critique of
Cohen, Schiffman and Handelman and a discussion of intertextuality.
Anyone who has gone through this material would be forced to agree that
the notion of collage has little value in the study of midrash.
(Unfortunately many Israeli scholars refuse to read Neusner. The Hebrew
Union College library in Jerusalem cancelled their order for one of his
translation series on the basis of a vindictive review in JAOS several
years ago. Thus I suspect that Mr. Bregman may not have the research
tools available to pursue the subject in light of the most current
publications in the discipline. Please correct me if I am wrong.)