Sunday, January 16, 2011

Opening and Closing with Ecclesiastes

Exciting news. I've recently been asked, "So, where have the blog entries been? Doing other writing, or what? " Well, I'm quite happy to say: yes, and it's now been published.

I have co-authored an article with Rabbi William Cutter, Ph.D  which is based upon my research and rabbinical thesis, "Yehuda Amichai’s Open Closed Open and Ecclesiastes: An Autumnal Intertextual Relationship." 

The article is titled, "Opening and Closing with Qohelet: The Late Work of Yehuda Amichai: A Discussion of Patua sagur patua (Open Closed Open)."

[Some background: Qohelet (קֹהֶלֶת‎‎) is the Hebrew title of the biblical book Ecclesiastes. Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000) is Modern Israel's most well-known and deeply beloved poet - and one of the Modern Hebrew Language's most important, as well. His final work is translated as Open Closed Open, and in its original Hebrew: פָּתוּח סָגוּר פָּתוּח, Patuaḥ Sagur Patuaḥ.]

The article has been published in the latest edition of Hebrew Studies, Volume 51 (2010). Hebrew Studies is an academic journal devoted to scholarly articles on Hebrew language, linguistics, literature, and culture of all periods, which is produced by the National Association of Professors of Hebrew. You can view the Journal's Table of Contents (as a .pdf) here; the article begins on page 175. (The journal is available through the managing editor, Dr. Rick Painter.)

You can read the article's first four pages by clicking here; it begins with the following abstract (summary)
Many critics have noted the densely wrought structure in Patua sagur patua, and have called attention to its rich intertextual allusions and use of refrains and key words. (One thinks of Kronfeld, Bloch, Arpali, Alter, Band, and Gold.) But the major articles have not fully treated the heavy burden of association to the book of Ecclesiastes, Qohelet. In Patua sagur patua, Amichai created a multi-layered foundation in classic sources which serves as an underpinning to the overall autumnal stance and skeptic’s vision of the 300 poem-units. In addition to the specific Qohelet allusions, there are nearly one hundred more elusive associations that emerge once the reader accepts the importance of the boldly etched references to Qohelet. The authors argue that, once Qohelet becomes the dominant metaphoric “trope,” other more transient and innocent associations to the biblical scroll take on greater significance. While resisting a glib “allegoresis” (a tendency to see Qohelet in every possible space), the fact is that the Solomonic wise preacher lies in wait in a surprising number of corners of this extraordinary and weighty collection.

The basis of the article, my rabbinical thesis, was the result of seemingly countless - and endlessly enjoyable - hours that I spent both translating Amichai's final collection in full, as well as identifying the truly overwhelming amount of biblical citations, references, and allusions. This was all a result of what I had discovered while reading and studying the book: there exists an intertextual relationship with Ecclesiastes that is profound in both depth and breadth.

I welcome your interest in the article and thesis and would happily make them available (although the thesis is rather comprehensive and a sure cure for insomnia).

I am deeply humbled, not only by Amichai's (greatest) work which continues to inspire, challenge, and delight, but also this work: what it took to do it, and what has come of it. It could not have happened without the assistance and guidance of so many exceptionally wise and remarkably patient people in my life: family and friends, mentors and professors, authors and scholars. Thank you all.

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