Poetry and Theology in the Book of Lamentations: An Investigation of Lamentations 1-3 using the Aesthetic Analysis of Umberto Eco

Thomas, Heath Aaron (2007) Poetry and Theology in the Book of Lamentations: An Investigation of Lamentations 1-3 using the Aesthetic Analysis of Umberto Eco. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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Abstract

The present study assesses how Lamentations 1-3 synthetically presents its theology. It accomplishes this task by assessing the poetry through the aesthetic analysis of Italian semiotician Umberto Eco to discover how, in terms of genre, structure, and poetics, theology is presented for the model reader of Lamentations 1-3. Chapter I introduces the problem of theology in Lamentations and the difficulties and possibility of focussing the present research upon Lamentations 1-3. Within this discussion, these chapters are set in their historical context. Chapter I concludes by suggesting that interpretation of theology remains a complex task and employs the metaphors of horizons "behind," "within" and "in front of' the text as theoretical tools by which different approaches could be categorised. Chapter 2 surveys past research using the metaphors of "behind," "Within," and "in front of' the text as a heuristic framework. Each horizon is assessed in tum: historical paradigms of Gottwald, Albrektson, Westermann, and Brandscheidt (world "behind" the text); literary paradigm of Renkema (world "within" the text); and the feminist approaches of Seidman, Guest, and O'Connor (world "in fromt of' the text). Finally, Chapter 2 adopts an "integrated" approach, typified by Dobbs-Allsopp, that takes seriously all three horizons in interpreting Lamentations 1-3. Chapter 3 provides an entree into the theory of Umberto Eco. His theory is useful because it coheres with the integrated approach adopted in the study, it provides a helpful means to assess aesthetic texts, such as Lamentations, and it enables distinctions between kinds of texts-how texts are designed differently to elicit different responses from model readers (open and closed). In light of the theological ambiguity in Lamentations, the open/closed distinction is shown to be useful. Finally, Eco employs the concept of the cultural encyclopaedia, a theoretical device that describes the cumulative amount of cultural data available to the producer of a text at the time of its production. Chapter 4 frames the borders of encyclopaedic content for research into Lamentations 1-3. It presents the possible genres, structures, and poetics suggested for Lamentations research in the past. The analysis shows that Lamentations cannot be reduced to one genre but rather exploits different genres to advance its theology. As to structure, analysis reveals that the acrostic is the most evident structuring device in the book. And finally, a number of poetic devices activated in the encyclopaedic world of Lamentations 1-3 are explored, including repetition, wordplay and enjambment, imagery, speaking voices, and allusion. This discussion frames the exegesis of Lamentations 1-3, accomplished in Chapters 5-7. Chapters 5-7 assess Lamentations 1-3 using Eco's aesthetic theory. Each chapter presents an introduction to the structure, genre, speaking voices, and strophic divisions of Lamentations 1-3, follows with detailed exegesis of the chapters, and then concludes with a catalogue of the ways in which structure, genre, and poetics impinge upon theological portrayal in the poetry. Analysis shows Lamentations 1-3 tends towards "open" rather than "closed" textual strategies for their model readers. Recognition and cataloguing of the persistent poetic use of repetition proves to be an area that the present study adds to scholarly discussion, as well as how repetition impinges upon theological presentation in the book. There are two primary functions of repetition: intensification (upon suffering, sin, judgment) or combination (to recast previously held understandings or to provide interpretative depth). Repetition provides a variety of interpretative horizons for the reader in regards to the book's theology. Chapter 8 concludes with a summary of results, an initial discussion of Lamentations 4 and 5, and the possible purpose of poetry and theology in Lamentations 1-3. The study concludes that the theology varies, but this is part of the function of the poetry. The poetry is designed to bring the reader on an interpretative journey through its contents rather than to teach a particular perspective. Despite the various ways in which the relationships can be configured, the poetry persistently drives the reader to address YHWH in prayer: each of the poems includes, and concludes with, prayer to the deity concerning various sources of pain. That the poetry highlights prayer to YHWH-even when he is the cause of pain-reveals this interpretative journey has a destination. The poetry of Lamentations 1-3 is designed to enable the reader to address God in light of the perspectives adopted and sufferings endured through the reading process.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Mcconville, Gordongmcconville@glos.ac.ukhttp://www.glos.ac.uk/faculties-and-schools/humanities/staff-profiles/pages/s2100900-gordon-mcconville.aspx
Joyce, PaulUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Uncontrolled Keywords: Bible studies, Book of Lamentations;
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BS The Bible
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Liberal and Performance Arts > Literary and Critical Studies
Depositing User: Phil Davis
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2016 16:51
Last Modified: 18 May 2017 15:32
URI: http://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/3177

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