School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures

Inventory of Structurally Important Literary Features in the Anonymous and Pseudepigraphic Jewish Literatures of Antiquity

A corpus-based list of generically defined literary features occurring in at least one text of the Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, the near-complete large Dead Sea Scrolls, or Rabbinic Literature.

Work in progress, version -355, 25 February 2011. Please cite information from this document as: A. Samely, P. Alexander, R. Bernasconi, R. Hayward, "Inventory of Structurally Important Literary Features in Ancient Jewish Literature (Version -355)" (Manchester:, 2010), plus Inventory Point number.

This Inventory is part of the outcomes of the Project Typology of Anonymous and Pseudepigraphic Jewish Literature of Antiquity (TAPJLA) Manchester-Durham 2007-2011, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK).

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D. Subject matter types and treatments

4. Narrative coherence and narrative aggregation

Definition of the literary feature Selected texts illustrating the feature
4.1. The text narrates events which are strongly emplotted, making reference to interlocking happenings, characters, motivations, causes, times or locations. 1Mac
4.1.1. The text narrates a complex series of events not presented as leading towards only one crisis and solution, nor as contributing to only one person's tale. 1Mac
4.1.2. All subordinate events are presented as preparing one crisis and its solution, or as addressing one unified timespan/location, or as telling the fate of one character or a group of characters. Judith, Tobit, Susannah The narrative builds up one central narrative tension as having special intrinsic interest, or unites in some other way a number of narrative strands. Judith, Tobit, Susannah The action pivots around one character or a small set of inter-connected characters. Tobit, Judith, Susannah The narrative emphasizes personal, private or domestic aspects of lives. Tobit
4.1.3. The narrative provides a clear closure, or dwells on the closure. Judith, Tobit
4.1.4. The narrative foregrounds apparently exact information on the absolute and relative timing of events.  
4.1.5. The narrative foregrounds quantifiable non-temporal information (e.g. figures, measurements, troop numbers, tribute payments, wall measurements, city lists).  
4.2. The event sequence is projected as being related to the sequence of text parts in the following manner:  
4.2.1. The report sequence mirrors the projected chronological sequence of events mostly or wholly, not precluding 4.2.2-5. LAB, Jubilees, 1Mac, Tobit, Judith
4.2.2. There is use of prolepsis or analepsis. Tobit 3:17
4.2.3. There are chronological gaps which are explicitly managed or signposted. LAB, Tobit
4.2.4. There are chronological gaps which are merely implied, or indicated but left vague.  
4.2.5. There are descriptions of repeated or habitual actions which have no unique point in the chronology. TJob
4.3. The text presents several sets of internally complex episodes with no explicit or manifest causal or motivational nexus between them. Where characters are identical, or linked (e.g. by genealogy), they do not figure in one continuous set of events. LAB, GenApoc Part-texts, 4Ezra, Targum Onkelos Genesis
4.3.1. The episodes have a common main character, or several characters of approximately equal narrative prominence, who are the subject of the action. GenApocNoah, GenApocAbram
4.3.2. The episodes are linked by a common witness character who is peripheral to some or much of the action told, but through whose perceptions all or much of the narrative information is filtered. Sibyl.O., 1Enoch
4.4. The narrative tells the story of the creation or reception of a separate text which is presented verbatim within the narrative framework, or at its end. 1Bar
4.5. The narrative progression is schematic and not mediated through the interlinking of specific events, while the events are not described in detail. Sibyl.Or.
4.5.1. The schematic telling of events is presented as conforming to an explicit overarching schema of chronology/periodization. Sibyl.Or.
4.6. There are meta-narrative explanations occurring in the narrative (editorial comments by the governing voice). Jubilees (Angelic voice), Targum Sheni Esther (main part)
4.7. Within a thematic (non-narrative) discourse, the text contains extensive telling of continuous and detailed events (5.12, 8.3.3 do not apply). See also under 5. 4Mac
4.7.1. This narrative material is explicitly subservient to and integrated into a thematic discourse or thematic description. 4Mac
4.7.2. This narrative material is explicitly subservient to and integrated into the lemmatic-sequential treatment of another text.  
4.8. The text provides scene-setting information, other than the introduction of an I-narration (for which see 2.2.1).  
4.8.1. There is an explicit introduction of the chronological and/or spatial setting of the action. JosAsen 1:1-2
4.8.2. There is an explicit introduction of the main character(s). Judith 8:1 ff.
4.9. There is prominent or sustained characterization of key figures in the narrative.  
4.9.1. There is editorial comment on the qualities of a character from a third-person narrator. Jubilees (Angelic voice), 4Mac, Targum Onkelos Genesis There is self-characterization of a first-person governing voice, or first-person characterization of other characters. Tobit 1
4.9.2. All characterization is achieved only through reporting the actions, speech or thoughts of the characters (i.e. dramatic).  
4.9.3. A figure is characterized by his/her moral or religious traits. Moral/religious traits are manifestly linked to the ethnicity and/or gender of the figure. Moral/religious traits are not manifestly linked to the ethnicity and/or gender of the figure. Tobit
4.9.4. A figure is characterized by her or his intellectual gifts or understanding.  
4.9.5. A figure is characterized by physical prowess or beauty, or their opposites. Judith, JosAsen
4.10. A character's relations to his/her community are foregrounded, including any two-fold social environment (e.g. a diaspora setting).  
4.10.1. A main character is portrayed as being integrated in one societal environment but as in conflict with a second environment. Tobit
4.10.2. A main character is portrayed as being integrated in two different societal environments. Joseph in JosAsen
4.10.3. A main character is portrayed as being integrated in his/her single societal environment.  
4.10.4. A main character is portrayed as in conflict with his/her environment (or as being an "Other"), whether the environment is single or doubled.  
4.11. Supernatural characters appear in the narrative. Tobit
4.12. The narrative pace is slowed down or changed by the occasional or regular occurrence of extended descriptions.  
4.12.1. There is extended description of one or more static objects. Aristeas There is extended description of a heavenly object, e.g. God's throne, chariot, etc. 1En 14:18-23
4.12.2. There is extended description of the outward appearance of persons or other animated beings.  
4.12.3. There is extended description of the physical or architectural setting/landscape. JosAsen 2, 1En 14:9-15
4.13. The narrative pace is slowed down or changed by frequent or prominent reporting of direct speech, quoted thought or quoted text.  
4.13.1. The quotation constitutes a plot-driving event in its own right. 1Mac (report on the confrontation with the King's officers); Tobit (Raphael and Tobias discussing future action); TJob ("song contest" between Job and the kings) The quotation divulges earlier events which the governing voice had left out of its own account of the earlier period. The narrative action largely or partly consists of a report on (long) speeches exchanged between characters. 4Ezra
4.13.2. Quoted speech/thought provides a comment on the events (4.13.1 does not apply). laments in 1Mac
4.13.3. The quotation is presented as an oral or written message sent from one character to another. See also 1Mac, 1Bar
4.13.4. The quotation differs from the surrounding text in its form (e.g. poetry), style or language. 1Mac (laments), Tobit (prayers), TJob (hymns)
4.14. The identity or perspective of the governing voice changes between adjacent parts of what is manifestly the same narrative. There is no higher-level voice managing the transition. Tobit, TJob, GenApoc
4.14.1. A first-person narrator is followed by a third-person narrator. Tobit 3:7, TJob 46, GenApocAbram, GenApocNoah, 2En 67:1; 2Bar 3:1; biblical examples
4.14.2. A third-person narrator is followed by a first-person narrator. TJob 52
4.14.3. The change coincides with other features which could be seen as motivating (or diachronically accounting for) it, as follows: a shift in the setting of the action which modifies the epistemic perspective but does not disrupt the effective narrative continuity (nor necessarily the literary unity). Tobit 3:7; TJob 46/52, GenApoc in Abram section a prominent change of (literary) form, style or language. a narrative and/or formal discontinuity which is disruptive of text unity.  
4.15. There are imbalances in the level of detail provided between adjacent parts of a continuous narrative, in the absence of narrative developments or conventions that obviously account for them.  
4.15.1. This coincides with the occurrence of unique literary forms, of more detail for narrative contents absent from a biblical partner text (see, the recurrence of information or wording, etc.  

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