Revolution Lullabye

May 25, 2011

Greenbaum, Talmudic Rhetoric

Greenbaum, Andrea  “Talmudic rhetoric: Explorations for writing, reading, and teaching.”  In Judaic perspectives in rhetoric and composition studies. Greenbaum, Andrea; Deborah Holdstein (Eds.), Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press (2009).  151-169.

Greenbaum explains some key features of Talmudic rhetoric (which has Greek influences) and points to ways Talmudic rhetoric can be used by teachers of writing as an alternative mode of rhetorical instruction in the writing classroom. Talmudic rhetoric points to deep philosophical and religious beliefs in the Judaic tradition – it is a cultural rhetoric.

Notes and Quotes

Rhetorical devices it uses: heteroglossia, metaphor, polysemy, dialogic discourse, discursive critique, imagistic narrative, juxtaposition, associative logic, nonlinearity, social consciousness

The Talmud has no page one – you begin in the middle (in media res) – which contrasts traditional linear Aristotiliean rhetoric. That has a rhetorical purpose – the discussion and studying of the Talmud has not beginning or ending, everyone who does it is part of the conversation.

Heteroglossia: Commentaries on the text are on the page, in the margins – multiple points of view on one page; multiple languages (Hebrew and Aramaic primarily, but influences with Greek, French, German) that gives the Talmud a complex cultural and linguistic identity

Highlights the contrast between faith and reason: it is rich in metaphor, stories, tales, advice, medical cures, philosophy and history. It has to be interpreted on a variety of levels.

“Judaic hermeneutics emphasizes what cannot be seen” as opposed to the highly visible ideas and rhetorics (and idea of God) in Christian or Greek rhetoric. (158)

The power of language – words do things (Let there be light), people change their names to reflect new identities, concept of “nomancy” – “the ability to create an alternative reality and identity through language” (161)

Talmudic rhetoric is not utilitarian – its purpose is to seek the truth (162) It has connections to Aristotle’s mythos

“Acts of kindness are inherently related to literacy” (167)

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