A word fitly spoken: poetic artistry in the first four acrostics of the Hebrew psalter.
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Maloney, Leslie D.
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This dissertation explores the occurrences and the functions of various poetic devices within the four alphabetic acrostic psalms found in Book I of the Psalter. These psalms are: Pss 9/10; 25; 34; and 37. These acrostics are four out of a total of eight alphabetic acrostic poems found in the Psalter -- the other four occurring in Book V. This study will also explore linguistic connections between the four Book I acrostics and will point to connections between some of the Book I and the Book V acrostics as an avenue deserving further investigation. The majority scholarly opinion has been that these acrostics are deficient poetically and artistically due to the writers'/editors' preoccupation with the alphabetic pattern. In contrast to this view, the working hypothesis of this dissertation is that the alphabetic acrostic pattern contributes to, rather than detracts from, the poetic artistry of these psalms. This study is primarily descriptive, consisting of a close reading of each of these Book I acrostics. The study highlights the functions of the various poetic devices found in these psalms. The study also sometimes highlights the linguistic connections and grammatical connections between the four acrostics and surrounding psalms in an effort to promote a holistic, canonical reading of the four acrostic poems within Book I of the Psalter. The dissertation's close reading of these poems demonstrates over and over the emotive power and the imagination of this literature in contradiction to its supposedly stiff, wooden nature. Finally, several times throughout this dissertation suggested, conventional emendations of the Masoretic Text are challenged and poetic or linguistically artistic solutions are proposed instead. This study is attuned to the frequent wordplays and plays on sound that occur throughout these four poems. Many times such considerations, as well as the preservation of grammatical parallelism within these acrostics, is a more desirable solution than is the emendation of the consonantal text.