Verbal Art and Literary Sensibilities in Ancient Near Eastern Context

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This chapter explores the nuances that counted as verbal art in the ancient world, distinguished a literary text from another kind of text, and what the ancients found significant and effective in the written works. Repetition is the fundamental criterion for distinguishing the literary in the ancient Near East. The intrinsic relationship between a word and the thing that it names is best represented in the literary interpretation of, or simply punning on, a personal name. Incremental progress in narrative and in poetry is characteristic of the earliest Mesopotamian literature. Certain texts and the literary tropes within them depend on being read in written form. The chapter highlights that in the ancient Near East, words were appreciated for their rhetorical, if not magical, power. Words were combined artfully and effectively, and compositions in speech and writing, using repetition on every level, were crafted according to aesthetic principles.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Wiley Blackwell Companion to Ancient Israel
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781118774199
StatePublished - 12 Dec 2015


  • Ancient Near East
  • Incremental development
  • Literary interpretation
  • Literary sensibilities
  • Mesopotamian literature
  • Speech compositions
  • Verbal art
  • Word repetition
  • Writing compositions

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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