This post moves from “grammaire” to the gender of sound.
Let’s start by listening to Anne Carson. Here’s a little bit from her essay, “The Gender of Sound”:
We have noticed this combinatory tactic already throughout most of the ancient and some of the modern discussions of voice: female sound is bad to hear both because the quality of a woman’s voice is objectionable and because woman uses her voice to say what should not be said. When these two aspects are blurred together, some important questions about the distinction between essential and constructed characteristics of human nature recede into circularity. Nowadays, sex difference in language is a topic of diverse research and unresolved debate. The sounds made by women are said to have different inflectional patterns, different ranges of intonation, different syntactic preferences, different semantic fields, different diction, different narrative textures, different behavioural accoutrements, different contextual pressures than the sounds that men make…. But in general, no clear account of the ancient facts can be extracted from strategically blurred notions like the homology of female mouth and female genitals, or tactically blurred activities like the ritual of the aischrologia. What does emerge is a consistent paradigm of response to otherness of voice….
Next let’s look at what linguist Mark Liberman wrote on his Language Log yesterday:
The highlighting is my attempt to show that Liberman is implicitly stating that sounding “more girlish” and speaking “in the voice of a little girl” is NOT something that either a grown up politician like Ann Richards or a big civil rights leader like the man Martin Luther King Jr. (in his dreamy “I Have A Dream” speech) would intend to do.
Let’s notice together Liberman’s implication also that the woman speaker is already “girlish” in her speech in ways that the male speaker is not at all girlish. In his parallel statements about Richards and King, Liberman stresses for King that he, this man, “is emphatically not … trying to perform.” He is neither girlish in the least nor attempting to come across like a little girl.
If you read the rest of what Liberman writes, it’s not surprisingly like what Carson writes of other men writing of women speaking so undesirably.
Liberman, for example, like Aristotle did, resorts to biology. Liberman has the distinct advantage of being able to resort more scientifically to the theory of evolution to explain. And yet he does provide a picture of the woman’s body part that sets it apart, as different, from a man’s body part.
And Carson early in her essay has noted:
High vocal pitch goes together with talkativeness to characterize a person who is deviant from or deficient in the masculine ideal of self-control. Women, catamites, eunuchs and androgynes fall into this category. Their sounds are bad to hear and make men uncomfortable. Just how uncomfortable may be measured by the lengths to which Aristotle is willing to go in accounting for the gender of sound physiognomically; he ends up ascribing the lower pitch of the male voice to the tension placed on a man’s vocal chords by his testicles functioning as loom weights.
Now, I think we need to make clear that no one is wanting anybody to be unscientific or to ignore the evidences of evolution or to call big men little girls (or vice versa) or any such thing that would make us blind – or deaf – to “difference.” What we are wanting to do is to pay attention to who is paying attention to the difference, what emotion (such as fear) that might evoke in them, and how they construct the world as a consequence.
I was following up on Peter’s remark that gender can be variable in Hebrew, not as fixed as in some other languages. I had not been aware of that. I had expected a more fixed gender, and automatic gender agreement. There are lots of commentators that do think that gender is a problem in this verse, but I won’t belabour that. Having read through 20 commentaries on Gen. 4:7, I am prepared to let it lie.
But here, in Beauty and the Beast, is a good example of my expectations. This is a passage from a recounting of the story by Madame de Villeneuve published in 1787,
Among the different questions that the monster addressed to her, he asked her how she was amusing herself. Beauty answered him, I have passed the day visiting your palace, but it is so vast that I have not had the time to see all the apartments and the beautiful things they contain. The Beast asked her: Do you think that you can grow accustomed to this place? The girl answered her politely that she would live without difficulty in such a beautiful place. After an hour of conversation on the same subject, Beauty, listening to the terrible voice of the Beast, distinguished easily that it was a tone forced by the vocal organs, and that the Beast leaned more towards stupidity that towards fury. She asked her directly if she would let her sleep with her. At this unexpected request her fears revived, and uttering an agonized cry, she could not prevent herself from saying: Oh! Heaven! I am lost!
Of course, nobody would actually translate it that way. But at least you get the idea. I do believe that the Beast asked Beauty to sleep with him, and not the reverse. The word for “beast” is a feminine word, even though the beast is male. The notion that masculine is male, and feminine is female is tenuous in gendered languages, because the language doesn’t really work that way. Perhaps the word for beast is feminine because it ends in an “e” – that’s all. But, the pronoun ought to agree with the gender of the noun. So sometimes elle is “the Beast” – a male. The question then becomes: does elle mean “she” in English. Well, sometimes yes, and sometimes no. And this situation happens in Greek as well. In languages with gender, the pronouns have gender, and they also relate to biological sex, but in a more remote way than in English. Their first allegiance is to grammatical gender.
Admittedly, in modern French, the pronoun would soon transition to masculine, an the gender of the pronoun would line up with the biological sex. But often there is a transition word to smooth things along. One could switch to another word like “le monstre” or “l’animal.” In any case, in older French, one would expect there to be an agreement in gender regardless of how the story goes.
The New York Times features an article of great interest of research by Douglas Bruster (U. Texas) that uses material from handwriting and Shakespeare’s spelling to argue that the “Additional Passages” in1602 quarto edition of The Spanish Tragedy (traditionally attributed to Thomas Kyd) were by Shakespeare. The article is fascinating and I encourage you to read it and Douglas Bruster’s paper (available now in Internet preprint).
But I was even more excited to read of a forthcoming volume in the RSC Shakespeare series of the Shakespeare Apocrypha – plays that may have been at least partially authored by Shakespeare but were excluded from the First Folio. The book is entitled William Shakespeare and Others: Collaborative Plays and is edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen. Palgrave Macmillan has a web page devoted to it.
Here is the description of the book:
Among the plays staged at the Globe and published in Shakespeare’s lifetime were The London Prodigal by William Shakespeare, A Yorkshire Tragedy written by W. Shakespeare and Thomas Lord Cromwell written by W.S
Could Shakespeare really have written these plays? Why were they excluded from the First Folio of his collected works? As a companion to their award-winning The RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works, renowned scholars Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, supported by a dynamic team of co-editors, now present William Shakespeare and Others: Collaborative Plays.
This is the first edition for over a hundred years of the fascinatingly varied body of plays that has become known as ‘The Shakespeare Apocrypha’. Among the highlights are the whole text of Sir Thomas More, which includes the only scene from any play to survive in Shakespeare’s own handwriting; the history play Edward III, including a superb seduction scene by Shakespeare; and the domestic murder tragedy Arden of Faversham, in which Shakespeare’s hand has been detected by recent computer-assisted analysis. This is also the first ever Shakespeare edition to include the 1602 edition of Thomas Kyd’s pioneering The Spanish Tragedy, with ‘additions’ that the latest research attributes to Shakespeare. A magisterial essay by Will Sharpe provides a comprehensive account of the Authorship and Attribution of each play.
William Shakespeare and Others: Collaborative Plays has all the features of the bestselling RSC Shakespeare series: inimitable introductions by Jonathan Bate, rigorous textual editing led by Eric Rasmussen, key facts boxes with information on sources and the distribution of parts, on-page notes explaining difficult or obsolete vocabulary, and interviews with directors and actors who have staged the plays, including RSC Artistic Directors Terry Hands, Michael Boyd and Gregory Doran.
and here is the table of contents:
General Introduction; J.Bate
SHAKESPEARE AND OTHERS: COLLABORATIVE PLAYS
For each play:
Individual introduction by J.Bate
On-page footnote gloss which explains unfamiliar or obsolete words and classical, biblical or contemporary references where WS assumes audience knowledge
‘Key Facts’ box with: plot summary, major roles, date, linguistic medium, sources, textual notes
Arden of Faversham
The Spanish Tragedy (with Additions)
Thomas Lord Cromwell
Sir Thomas More
The London Prodigal
A Yorkshire Tragedy
Mucedorus (with Additions)
Double Falsehood; or The Distressed Lovers
Cardenio: The Source
Authorship and Attribution; W. Sharpe
From Script to Stage: Interviews with actors and directors; P. Kirwan
For those who are surprised of the idea of Shakespeare working in collaboration with other authors, it may be interesting to learn that collaboration was quite common during the Elizabethan-Jacobean period. Thus, Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino’s Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works includes Macbeth, Measure for Measure, and Timon of Athens (as well as evidence of Middleton’s contributions to the final versions of each play); others argue that Middleton contributed to All’s Well That Ends Well.
In any case, the new Bate-Rasmussen volume looks to be an exciting collection of some very fine plays. The volume is available for pre-order from Internet sellers such as Book Depository and Amazon.
A privileged judge in Tennessee orders a child’s name to be changed from Messiah Deshawn Martin to Martin DeShawn McCullough. Yesha Callahan (and /or her editor) puts that this way: “Judge Orders Black Mom to Change Baby’s Name From ‘Messiah’.” And Tommy Christopher goes beyond the obvious by adding, “Aside from the obvious imposition of her own religion (‘Messiah’ is not a term exclusively reserved for Jesus), the judge’s actions evoke the sick specter of slave owners enforcing name changes on their slaves, while also resting on the dubious legal theory that a proper name that’s also a title must be earned.”
The judge says:
I saw it out into the future. The word Messiah is a title, and it’s a title that’s only been earned by one person, and that one person is Jesus Christ. That could put him at odds with a lot of people, and, at this point, he has had no choice in what his name is. Well, I thought about that [children are named /he suz/ Jesus] as well, um, and that’s not relevant to this case.
And Messiah’s mother responds by appealing:
I didn’t think a [state] judge could make me change my baby’s name because of her religious beliefs.
What is there to add except a few graphs showing how Americans (including some Tennesseans we presume) are naming their babies? The data are from the U.S. Social Security Administration and are charted via http://www.ourbabynamer.com.
Here is what we know about Messiah.
Here is what we know about Deshawn.
Here is Deshawn compared with Messiah.
Here is Jesus compared with Messiah.
Here is the name the judge’s mother gave her.
Here is the name the judge’s mother gave her compared with the name that the judge took away from the baby of the other mother.
In case there’s any question, mothers in America are naming their baby boys Messiah at a rate so fast that it’s the fourth fastest growing name in terms of popularity. Lu Ann may decline in popularity, we predict.
As it turns out “sin” is firmly feminine and that could make the whole house of cards fall down.
The argument goes like this. We don’t know exactly what it means when in Gen. 3:16 it says
and your desire shall be for your husband.
In fact, that phrase makes women look a whole lot nicer than they really are, so it can’t be the right interpretation.
The solution then is to investigate the meaning of Gen. 4:7,
sin is lurking at the door;
its desire is for you,
but you must master it.
We know what that means – sin is trying to have you/ruin your life. Perhaps it means “sin desires to control you.” Yes, that sounds right. Therefore, Eve desires to control Adam – this is also the translation found in the NET Bible, and the NLT - and according to the theologians of complementarianism a husband must assert his rulership over his wife.
Nothing knew here – moving right along – but not so fast. Apparently, Gen. 4:7 does not say
sin is lurking at the door
its desire is for you
but you must master it.
No, it says -
sin is lurking at the door
his desire is for you
but you must master him.
But sin is feminine, and so who is the “him” in this passage? Is it Abel? Perhaps it should read,
sin is lurking at the door
Abel’s desire is for you
but you must master him.
Or perhaps this is one of those texts whose original form has been lost. Here is the Hebrew. Please correct me if I am wrong – but isn’t sin feminine, and Cain is supposed to master something that is masculine?
לַפֶּתַח חַטָּאת רֹבֵץ;
So I ask you, is it fair to prove the nastiness of women from a text that nobody understands? Do you think it makes you look smart?
And, on top of it all, why think up another unpleasantness for the Song of Solomon? Some of us need hope, we need to think that that great love of our life could be around the next corner, a love that is reciprocal. But the NET Bible says no, don’t dream of that, because the lover(the guy) just wants to have his way sexually with her, that’s what it is all about. In the NET Bible, the women aren’t very nice, and the men aren’t very nice either.
Here is the relevant part of the NET Bible note for teshuqa, normally translated as “desire,”
Many interpreters conclude that it refers to sexual desire here, because the subject of the passage is the relationship between a wife and her husband, and because the word is used in a romantic sense in Song 7:11 HT (7:10 ET). However, this interpretation makes little sense in Gen 3:16. First, it does not fit well with the assertion “he will dominate you.” Second, it implies that sexual desire was not part of the original creation, even though the man and the woman were told to multiply. And third, it ignores the usage of the word in Gen 4:7 where it refers to sin’s desire to control and dominate Cain. (Even in Song of Songs it carries the basic idea of “control,” for it describes the young man’s desire to “have his way sexually” with the young woman.)
So, let’s deconstruct:
1) Any kind of behaviour can fit with “he will dominate you.”
2) A new factor has just been introduced, pain in giving birth
3) Gen; 4:7 is the great unknown
4) Now they have ruined Song of Solomon also, because the rest of us thought that it celebrated mutuality, but the NET Bible says “he wants to have his way with her,” and that’s a euphemism for not getting consent – according to Wiktionary anyway - ”To have sexual intercourse with, especially without the consent of one’s partner.”
I wouldn’t let my kids read the NET Bible, it needs a warning on it.
Abram K-J and Kurk got into a bit of a discussion last week about how to describe scholars who are women. Abram wrote:
I know it’s becoming more accepted to speak of “women authors,” “women this,” and “women that,” but what we really want to say is “female scholars.” Just like we wouldn’t say “man scholar” but would say “male scholar.”
I generally use “woman,” not “female,” and I do so for two reasons.
First, the two words have different connotations. Take a look at the semantic field of each word as rendered by the Visual Thesaurus:
A woman is an adult human being (a certain fondly-remembered Doonesbury strip notwithstanding). A female may be neither adult nor human. Little girls are female. Mares, hens, cows, vixens, and bitches are all female.
Given that sexism and misogyny are frequently expressed by infantilizing or dehumanizing women, I believe it is generally preferable to use the word that can only refer to adult humans — pedantry notwithstanding. A descriptive, rather than prescriptive, approach to language might observe that the adjectival shift of this word is already well under way.
Another reason to use woman rather than female has to do with inclusive language and the distinction between sex and gender. Typically, female is understood to refer to sex, usually anatomical sex because we can’t actually determine a person’s chromosomal sex by looking at them. Non-op or pre-op trans women, who were assigned male at birth, don’t have female anatomy, but they still identify as women.
I agree that the corresponding forms “man scholar” or “men authors” sound awkward (the former more than the latter, for some reason) and are rarely used; but “male scholar” and “male author” are almost as rarely used, because of the andronormative assumption that scholars and authors (and doctors and lawyers and butchers and bakers and candlestick makers) are men unless stated otherwise.
New language forms frequently sound awkward at first, but sometimes it’s worth the awkwardness in support of a good cause. Although I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, I consider this to be such a case.
I previously reported on International Commission for the Preparation of an English-language Lectionary (ICPEL) to prepare a new lectionary (for use outside North America) based on the ESV translation. I remarked:
Third, and this is most surprising, the ICPEL has apparently chosen a translation that had no Catholic involvement at all. The ESV (which some jokingly call the Evangelical Standard Version or the Elect Standard Version) had a strictly Protestant (and largely Calvinist) translation team. (The Translation Oversight Committee and Translation Review Scholars were also all male.) The RSV Apocrypha was adopted by Oxford University Press and four male Protestant scholars to form the ESV Apocrypha. The ESV has never received approval as a Catholic Bible (as opposed to a Catholic Lectionary), and it is hard to imagine how it could be approved as Catholic Bible under Canon law 825. However, lectionaries are governed under a different Canon law (838), which is why in most jurisdictions (including the US) approved Bibles have different text than approved lectionaries.
Well, now, there are rumors that plans for a Catholic ESV Lectionary have been put on hold – or perhaps abandoned:
I found this out from the mouth of the man in charge of it all when I was at the “Great Grace” Conference in Sydney back in June. I could hardly believe it myself. It seems that this now sets back the entire lectionary project (they had the Sunday lectionary practically ready to go), as there was no agreement on which translation they should use as an alternative. Apparently there is a sizable body of opinion simply wanting to rework the Jerusalem Bible lections
Thirlwell has selected 12 stories whose originals (which are not printed) are variously written in Danish, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, German, Arabic, Russian, Serbo-Croat, Italian, Hungarian, English and Italian again. Ten stories are first translated into English, the other two into German and Spanish. The first translation is translated, and then the subsequent translation is translated again. The translators only see the preceding version of the story. The longest chains contain six translations, though every other version is in English. Thirlwell has corralled an illustrious international group of 60 novelist-translators into taking part and we end up with an intriguing literary version of Chinese whispers.
Lucian Robinson, for the Guardian, reviews “Multiples, a new book edited by the novelist and critic Adam Thirlwell, [that] seeks to undermine the idea of the original in literary translation.”
UPDATE – here is Thirlwell on the conception of this project, hinting at why it now is becoming a book (and is even published as an ebook). First, what motivated him -
In fact, I’m stealing this idea from David Bellos, a Princeton professor and, more importantly, translator of Georges Perec and Ismail Kadare. Around the time I was first putting this project together, the NYT asked me to review his new book on translation: Is That A Fish In Your Ear? and one of his arguments is that we have to stop thinking of translation as substitution
Second, the format (and hint about the later book) -
BLVR: Finally, you guys designed the issue so the far edges of the pages aren’t protected by firmer stock. Do you worry that the pages will get damaged? Or do you not care about damage?
AT: I do worry slightly about this. On the other hand it’s a very beautiful object. And also, if this project’s proved anything, it’s that we really don’t need to be so precious about endless and irreparable damage.
Now that Kurk has brought up Hysminé’s nostrils, I have to admit that this is even odder than the lack of Adam’s nose. If Adam’s nose is downsized to his face, then Hysminé’s nose is upsized to her nostrils. How odd! Would you translate like this? (BTW, I don’t have access to the Greek, or English, but am hoping that Kurk does.) But this is Hysminé.
Her mouth is drawn in exact proportion, her lips are light and vermilion like a rose. Her white and perfectly straight teeth look like a choir of virgins around which the lips serve as rampart and refuge. Her face, enfin, forms a perfect circle in which her nostrils are the centre.
I just couldn’t bear to translate “enfin” – it comes like a lover’s sigh and “finally” just wouldn’t do. But why narines – “nostrils” - instead of nose? According to LSJ, it is quite acceptable to translate τὰς ῥῖνας as nose, whether plural or not. Sometimes odd things creep into translation and then they stick.
Yes, it’s true. I feel called back. I have been reading and want to say something as a female writer. But do I want to discuss female issues? Yes, always!
However, today my question is about Adam’s nose. What is it doing here, and why does nobody talk about it? Too polite, I’m sure.
In the sweat of thy face,
Thou shalt eat bread.
εν ιδρωτι του προσωπου σου
φαγη τον αρτον σου
The word here is אף and not פּנים. There seems to be some kind of euphemistic reluctance to calling a nose a nose. Check out the different times it is called the “face.” Why not say that the ring was in her nose? Is face any better? Why not say that they bowed nose to the ground instead of face to the ground? Seems a little odd to me.
Perhaps, it wasn’t Adam’s nose that is in focus in Gen. 3:19. Maybe it is the hard breathing involved in tilling the ground, or how angry Adam felt, or whatever? It still seems like a copout to call a “nose,” that protruding member, the “face.”
What do you think?
- The LXX translator’s Hellene for David’s Hebrew (Psalm 23:5)
- Albert Pietersma’s English translation
- Lancelot Brenton’s English
- καὶ τὸ ποτήριόν σου μεθύσκον ὡς κράτιστον
- “and your cup was supremely intoxicating”
- “and thy cup cheers me like the best [wine].”
- Odd Gospel Greek (John 2:10)
- Ann Nyland’s English translation
- Willis Barnstone’s English
- πᾶς ἄνθρωπος πρῶτον τὸν καλὸν οἶνον τίθησι[ν] καὶ ὅταν μεθυσθῶσι[ν] τὸν ἐλάσσω
- “Everyone serves the best wine first and then brings out the worse stuff when the guests have got drunk–”
- “Everybody serves the good wine first, and when the guests are drunk brings out the inferior kind.”
With the dim hope of discovering more … female authors writing in Hebrew, the only path left for the Hebrew … feminist is treating issues of women and gender via the male-authored texts. Historians may try to reconstruct the actual life-experiences (Grossman 2001; Baskin 1991, 94–103; Assis 1988, 25–59) and the authentic voices (Kraemer 1995, 161–182) of real women captured in male-authored documents. The task of feminist literary critics, for their part, is to account for the ideological and symbolical functions designated to women in the male literary imagination; to map the positions of female figures and the positioning of their voices within the patterns of male discourse; to explore the artistic strategies of women’s presence/absence and the procedures of their signification.
– Tova Rosen
In seeking the meaning or connotation for El Shaddai I have come up with no answers but plenty of poetic allusions. Here are the three major connotations of El Shaddai – breasts and by association mountains, and destruction. These do not represent the known etymological roots of the word, but rather euphonic and associative connections.
In Genesis, El Shaddai is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. In Genesis 49:25, Shaddai, – שַׁדַּי the Almighty, is the one who blesses with the blessings of the heavens and the deep and the breasts שָׁדַיִם (the shadayim) and the womb.
– Suzanne McCarthy
The name or epithet Shadday (translated as “the Almighty”) derives its significance from … the pre-Mosaic patriarchal people…. However, the “etymology and primary meaning of the name [had] long since been forgotten” by the time of the LXX.
– Harriet Lutzky
My mother has been studying the biblical names of God and told me this week that Shaddai has signified Breast.
About that time, Abram K-J, blogger, was announcing a soirée. To use his words precisely, he’s “Announcing the Septuagint Studies Soirée.” In “the” party, he’s announced the “four Septuagint-related blogs” that he knows of. All men authored, these four, I see; and so I’m back to posting about the LXX, as a man. In a private conversation, Abram tells me he’s struck by how proportionally there seems to be more women doing scholarship on the Septuagint than on other biblical studies. He names Karen Jobes, Kristen de Troyer, Jennifer Dines. And I say not to forget Adele Berlin, Sylvie Honigman, Naomi Seidman. Or Ann Nyland, who has translated the Psalms, using (as many translators do) both the MT and the LXX as the sources.
Then I recall what the Septuagint translators did with Shaddai in Genesis 49. They were men, weren’t they? Yes, breasts are mentioned, and womb. These motherly wifely womanly female images are in the Hebraic Hellene. And absence, margin, lack is there. The men – as if Moses writing the blessings spoken by Father Jacob over Son Joseph – imagine Jewish voices in Greek. Their LXX translation even helps men translating the Hebrew later try to figure out what the original Hebrew must have meant. So what?
What does that signify about women? To women?
Below is the MT and the LXX side by side. And beside that is Sir Lancelot Brenton’s Englishing of the Greeking of the Hebrew.
Notice the name in the Hebrew that is missing from the Hellene.
Now here is how Everett Fox Englishes the Hebrew.
He transliterates Shaddai and includes a footnote (which I’ve put in the box above, to the right of his translation).
Now here is how Robert Alter puts the Hebrew into English. (His footnote is also included; I’ve again placed it to the right of his translation).
We should note that Alter is translating not only from the Hebrew MT but also from the Hellene LXX. And so he adds this footnote on the very next verse:
The Masoretic Text is not really intelligible at this point, and this English version follows the Septuagint for the first part of the verse, which has the double virtue of coherence and of resembling several similar parallel locutions elsewhere in biblical poetry.
Verse 26: the absent mother
Immediately following [Genesis 49:25] is a highly ambiguous passage (verse 26a), whose Masoretic rendition “is obviously corrupt and cannot be restored”. There should be a line parallel to “blessings of breasts and womb”, with the form “blessing of x + y”. And, in fact, in some translations, after ’ā·ḇî·ḵā (your father) we find … καὶ μητρός σου (LXX) (and your mother).
And that brings us again to what Tova Rosen has said:
The task of feminist literary critics, for their part, is to account for the ideological and symbolical functions designated to women in the male literary imagination; to map the positions of female figures and the positioning of their voices within the patterns of male discourse; to explore the artistic strategies of women’s presence/absence and the procedures of their signification.
To have women scholars working on male texts that imagine women is critical. Would you agree? And what difference do women make when they talk about men talking about women? And God? And breasts?
I have to thank our BLT co-blogger, Suzanne, for getting me, for drawing many of us, into blogging about the Bible. She humbly suggests that it was somebody else who asked her to blog on Psalm 68 some time ago; with some reluctance, Suzanne says, she began a commentary in a series of posts as a co-blogger at the old Better Bibles Blog. The post here this week that many of you have read and a few of you have taken some time to comment on recalls the conversations Suzanne started, as pieces through time.
Below are links to each of Suzanne’s posts in chronological order. And yet it seems good first to highlight, and actually to reproduce, what Suzanne identifies as her own hopes and intentions in writing about Psalm 68. She kindly gives me permission here to do this. As you’ll see, Suzanne has been quite interested in others’ views and has regularly taken us, her readers, to places where she herself was reading. And so without further ado:
It’s not going to happen anytime soon, but if and when I ever retire, I would love to write a book à la Wolters’ Song of a Valiant Woman. It would be on Psalm 68 and include excerpts or reprints of translations and commentary ever since it was written.
It would be filled with many languages and richly obscure and exotic prose in a form of English usually consigned to the past. It would include Julia Greswell, Neale, Mary Sidney and Erasmus, Luther,and Bucer, Marot and Beza, Pagnini and Vatable, and Kimhi, and Aquinas and everybody else that I haven’t met yet. I have just begun and will collect commentary on this psalm until it fills a book 6 inches thick.
It would include selections in several different writing systems. The psalm would be presented as prose, a poem, a song and a dance. There would even be a wordless version. A better bible is not always every word of the “canon” accumulated in one place. I would take a vertical slice and follow one piece through time.
All contributions are welcome. More on Ps. 68 soon. I am like a pig in mud.
And now the series for those who missed it or want to revisit it:
I have put off for over a year a series which has been requested more than once. It is only with the utmost hesitation and reluctance that I embark on this series. It is about the names of God. Because I really am an old fashioned person, and reared in a very strict way, I feel a certain taboo in talking directly about God. It is like looking directly into the sun….
Tonight I want to write about Psalm 68 verse 4, the second line. Some of you might have noticed that it is translated in at least four significantly different ways….
Here is Psalm 68:4 in total. I will follow it with the KJV, which I have chosen arbitrarily for this study….
Down the hatch with the chicken scratch. I am in a four way race and even though I got off the starting block first, I have lost the lead and John has pulled ahead. Dave is already pondering the “lovely lady”, Bob has provided the whole psalm en bloque, and I am slowly going to plod through one little word at a time….
Update: I have just looked at Bob’s image and noticed how he outlines the verse with the name of God in it. He also uses the very evocative phrase “bound in chains” instead of “captives” which I used. The shading really emphasizes the high density of the names of God in this psalm.
There are new posts on Psalm 68 by Lingamish, along with a fleet of comments, Bob offers commentary insight, some critical text analysis and alternative readings of verse 5, John brings in more musical background and J. K. joins the fray with a comparison of how Aristotle and Luther would read the psalm. J. K. quotes Luther writing,….
J. K. Gayle had written on Psalm 68, picking up again my reference to the psalmist as possibly a woman. He comments,….
Update: Bob has ventured into the next few verses.
Some readers might feel that by letting myself imagine the “background” to this psalm, I have left the text, as it is, and have added what is not there. On the contrary, it turns out that I have wandered into what really is there…..
Iyov has provided access to Neale’s commentary on Psalm 68 through a new widget(thingy) on his blog. This certainly puts an end to all dire predictions that blogs will disable people from reading extended texts. Cyberspace is now enabling us all to read one copy of the same book at the same time…..
Just a few notes.
I did not mention yesterday that the 1662 prayer book psalter is basically the same as the Coverdale translation. I was surprised to see that these psalms are so dependent on the LXX and Vulgate tradition, at least what I have seen so far.
Chris Heard has joined the Ps. 68 blogabout with a post on the names of God. He demonstrates the need to differentiate LORD, meaning YHVH, and LORD meaning Baal…..
Lots of great blog posts around. First, a good post by Wade Burleson on the days when you could be accused of not believing in the doctrine of the infallibility of scripture if you protested against slavery. Hermeneutics: Slavery & Feminism by Mike Aubrey points to The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.….
I will return to Psalm 68 soon. In many ways we haven’t even touched on the more interesting elements. There is a ton of conversation between Lingamish, Peter, John, Bob, Doug et al. – I don’t think it needs pointing to, I don’t want to appear to be leaving anyone out, seems like everyone is there but me.
If someone has written a post that they would like to see mentioned here, please email me any time, I may have missed it. Ilona continues to blog on Hesed.
- Is it merely an entrance liturgy suitable for a variety of worship occasions, or is it specifically an entrance liturgy to be used in conjunction with the celebration of military victories?
I enjoy reading other people’s take on the psalm, and have no intention of being comprehensive here. I am indulging in my interest in the history of translation by following this psalm throughout two millenia.
Bob writes on Bright Wings, a reference to Gerald Manley Hopkins.
In verse 11 of psalm 68, we meet women again…..
Tyler has posted an excerpt from an interview with Alter on his Psalms.
I am taking a course in something called Spiritual Traditions. A rather vague title, but it involves reading something from Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Bucer, etc. each week and is supplemented every week with singing psalms from the Presbyterian hymnbook and looking at rare books like an original Geneva Psalter or Vatable’s commentary on the Pagnini Psalter, etc. Right up my alley, in any case.
In exploring the Geneva Psalter, translated into French by Clément Marot and Théodore Beza, I have also discovered the Psalms of Mary Sidney, an English translation of the Geneva Psalter. Here is Katherine Larsons’s commentary on Sidney’s Psalm 68…..
I can’t respond usefully to all the issues raised on this issue. However, I would like to point out that I have held this view since I came on this blog. I do not regard my views on translation to have any intellectual or spiritual superiority. Call it a wish list, if you will.
However, I have recently encountered two instances where after some research I have decided that the meaning of a word or verse in the Bible must remain obscure for me. First. Psalm 68:11. Who divides the spoil? Women, if we go back to Deborah’s song. But I have utterly no insights into what the Hebrew says in this verse, and I will have to leave it this way. It may or may not be a word meaning “women.”….
One of the most puzzling cases of a citation of the Hebrew scriptures in the Christian scriptures is found in Psalm 68:19. It is not only cited in Eph. 4:8, but it also contains a citation from Judges 5:12…..
This cannot be the first time that someone has remarked that mountains resemble breasts and are a symbol of fertility.
In seeking the meaning or connotation for El Shaddai I have come up with no answers but plenty of poetic allusions. Here are the three major connotations of El Shaddai – breasts and by association mountains, and destruction. These do not represent the known etymological roots of the word, but rather euphonic and associative connections…..
I thought I gave Shaddai rather short shrift last time so I am going to continue with this topic. There are three derivations of Shaddai that I did not mention. In this comment on my previous post, ElShaddai Edwards addresses two of them…..
It is always nice these days to find something to say that hasn’t been already been said in greater detail in wikipedia. I note that the origin of the word Almighty does not fare too well there…..
I can’t find the meaning “Heavenly” for Shaddai mentioned anywhere but it is how Shaddai was translated in the Psalms of the Septuagint. Shaddai occurs only twice in the Psalms, once in Ps. 68:14 and once in Ps. 91:1. This verse forms such a lovely couplet in which we see varying types of alliteration and metaphor, that I can’t resist writing about it…..
Update: Mark comments,
Shaddai is also translated with hikanos in Job 21.15; 31.2; and 40.2.
A great tool for doing exactly what you hope to do in lining up the Hebrew with the LXX is the way Tov’s Parallel Aligned Hebrew and LXX is implemented in BibleWorks7. I’ve posted about it a couple times here and here.
I finally found it. Apologies. I had no idea of this translation. In the Septuagint, in Ruth 1:20, Shaddai is translated as “sufficient” or “enough” – hikanos…..
The study of Shaddai has completely taken me by surprise. I had thought when I began that Shaddai meant Almighty. In fact, this is the meaning and translation that I have found most frequently on the internet and in other resources. However, now I see that “Almighty” comes from Lord of Hosts…..
Here are a few modern translations of Psalm 91:1,….
I take a risk in admitting that I have jumped into another series which will run in parallel to my continued exploration of Ps. 68 and the names of God…..
This is a short post to round up the series on Shaddai. Shaddai in Psalm 68 is translated in the Septuagint as the “Heavenly One.”….
Here are the names of God from Psalm 68 along with their transliteration, an approximate translation and for some a traditional translational equivalent. I have written about Shaddai and I hope to write about adonai next…..
This post is terribly late. I was asked several months ago if there was an explanation for the use of “Sovereign” in the (T)NIV, when it does not appear in other translations. I have been taking my own sweet time in responding. Fortunately, it is fairly straightforward. Here is Psalm 68:20,….
This post is another in a series on the interpretive spins and literary sparks in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Tehillim called Ψαλμοὶ (or Psalms). Translating the Septuagint (LXX) Greek into English, Albert Pietersma has noted that there are the sparks and spins, but he fails to identify them. Pietersma in the NET Septuagint has said, for example, the following about the translator of the Hebrew into the Greek:
My eye was directed to a possible literary spark in Psalm 68 this past week. Wayne Leman posted an announcement about the new “International Standard Version” of the Bible, and I was looking at how Dr. Mona Bias (for the ISV) had translated the Psalm. Although the ISV editors generally seem to suggest that their English is to be English as an international language, I was wondering.
Also, the ISV translators supposedly use the LXX Greek among various resources. So here is what I noticed, when comparing what Bias has done for the ISV with what other version translators have done (who don’t necessarily use the LXX as a source and who do often translate with English regionalisms). I’m just comparing the very first part of verse 14 (or 13, depending on the numbering system):
Now here is how Robert Alter translates the same (and as we all know Alter refers to the LXX many times):
In this case, however, it seems that Alter finds nothing useful in the Greek rendering of the Hebrew. His note points to other issues:
We can compare Alter’s translation with Bias’s. And we can add to these Ann Nyland’s rendering of the same. The reason Nyland’s might be interesting is that she, like Bias and like Alter, also consults the LXX. Nyland has this:
Her footnote gives these explanations:
Now, let’s compare the Hellene of the LXX with the Hebrew. The Masoretic Text has this:
The LXX translator has this:
Pietersma makes this Greek the following English:
And Brenton’s English version of that Greek goes like this:
So what’s going on?
Could it be that there’s an allusion to the lots so famously in Sophocles somehow? Like this:
commonly put into English like this?
Well, you can see that we have questions. On just this little bit of scripture, we have that much. We know we don’t know much. Except there is some fancy Greek before and after this little “lot.” The lot, of course, is an unusual bit to show up here in the Psalm. I think it’s an echo to the playwright for some now unknown reason. Maybe we’ll say more some later.
What do you think?
“Just don’t call them children.”
That’s the final sentence, the last paragraph, the final conclusion of L.A. Times reporter Michael McGough in his recent op-ed piece, “Was Trayvon Martin a ‘child’ or a ‘youth’?”
To be sure, McGough would not consider himself a child. He doesn’t want anyone calling the late Trayvon Martin a child either. And he gets into this broader discussion about (English) words for children. Which makes me wonder, again, how he can police language so. In Greek and Hebrew, in some of the biblical languages, there is more freedom, more poetry, more narrative metaphor, than McGough would allow us.
In the gospel of Mark, for example, there’s this use of the term paideia (or παιδεία) around which Werner Jaeger wrote three volumes. (This is in English translation by Gilbert Highet.) Here, for the one term, there’s a range of meanings, a range of ages, from infancy through the teen years into the 20s even. Yesterday, I blogged elsewhere a bit about how Mark’s gospel portrays Jesus as being indignant at adults who fail to recognize the value of παιδία. That’s Mark 10:13-14, but the writer of the gospel of John (Jn. 21:5) even has Jesus calling these same adults παιδία.
This gets us recalling the Septuagint (Greek translation of) Genesis, and the story of Jacob and his twelve sons. In Genesis 43:8, Judah is appealing to his father Israel, saying, “Send the child, the youth, the teenager, with me.” The Greek phrase is παιδάριον. This is for the Hebrew word with a very similar range of meanings and age: נער. Later in the text, the Hellene translation adds some wordplay that actually exploits the ambiguities of the Greek word. It also can mean “youth in training” and even “servant apprentice” and even sometimes “slave.” So the Greek text in Genesis 43:18 has the older brothers suggesting that Joseph treat them as child-slaves in Egypt (a sort of literary foreshadowing of the events of the second of the five books of Moses): ἡμᾶς εἰς παῖδας (for לעבדים). And then in Genesis 43:28, there an alliterative wordplay, an appositive, suggesting that “your child-servant” is “our father”: ὁ παῖς σου ὁ πατὴρ ἡμῶν (for לעבדך לאבינו).
I’m trying to suggest that policing language, that disallowing phrases like “child” and “children” for 17 year olds, is ironically the very sort of manipulation of language that McGough is accusing others of doing. Whether our present languages or the ones of the ancients, the terms for children can be intentionally very expansive.
Before we were co-blogging here, Theophrastus and I discussed at one of my blogs what he called the “classic missionary focus” of Bible translation. Today, blogger Rod at the blog Political Jesus has posted something along those lines with his brother Richard. They investigate some of the missionary focus of translation of the Bible in the history of colonial contexts. Here are just a few lines (from Richard, on this history, then from Rod, on the present and continuing implications):
The effects of imperial powers extend far beyond the immediate period of colonization. This truth is most evident when exploring the relationship between colonization and biblical hermeneutics [as manifest in translation]. The British and Foreign Bible Society diffusion of scriptural imperialism in India mirrored the efforts of the slaveholders in America to appropriate the bible for slaves…. The British and Foreign Bible Society monopolized the translation of the biblical text for the Hindu people. They used their English language as the basis for all translation…. One translator noted the lack of Christian vocabulary present in indigenous cultures by stating: “Not only the heathen, but the speech of the heathen must be Christianized. Their language itself needs to be born again.”… The American slaveholders were firm in their belief of the African slave’s inability to comprehend the entire message of the biblical revelation. This stance mirrored the British and Foreign Bible Society’s view of the native people in India. Inculcating Christian doctrines upon the African slaves was reinforced through the use of textualization.
English bible translations, do in fact, begin on the backs of the colonized, and continues… Whenever you hear or read of a bible translation for/by women or People of Color as being “contextual” or “special interest,” the colonizing gaze of biblical studies rears its head. European colonialism is a special interest. White supremacy is a special interest. Male domination is a special interest. English-onlyism is a special interest. Bourgeois values, with the politics of respectability and white hegemonic liberalism, are special interests.
The full post is here: India, English Bibles, British Empire, And the Foreign Bible Society: A Joint Post
I’m reading three books at once, which is impossible. Or should I maybe more correctly say that the three books that I’m reading are impossible?
They are three books by two psychotherapists about their respective fathers. Their fathers are very famous writers, whose books of fiction I have much appreciated.The factual biographies about these famous writers are written, by their children, now after their respective deaths.
The biographers, respectively, are conflicted about much of what they have felt compelled to write, to publicize, about their fathers. You can imagine the heart issues, the book life, the private matters. These children, now professionals of the human soul, have an unusual role to play in their writing. How much analysis do they do, how much do they share?
In this blog post soon, you’ll read which books these are. They are well written and are elsewhere well reviewed. I’d recommend them to you. When I say they’re impossible, then I’m just being personal. I think the books are personal. I’ve come to these three books after my own father died. After finding his own notes in a book by a psychologist named Paul Tournier, I started reading books about psychotherapy by psychotherapists, Jung, Freud, Adler. (This some has to do with the fact that one of my own children is studying to be a psychologist, and her grandfather, my father, encouraged this some.) At any rate, these are private matters, no? Here is my own father’s handwriting in the Tournier book:
What I’m intrigued by is how many many people knew my father. And yet how few knew him as I did. So does one tell what one knows? Why? How? Where? For whom? For posterity? For the grandchildren?
These are some of the motives of Greg Bellow. He’s one of the biographers of one of these three books I’m reading. His is Saul Bellow’s Heart: A Son’s Memoir. His very title, with its subtitle, is fractured by the punctuation dividing the one from the other. The book itself starts at the funeral, at the son’s realization how there are others in Saul Bellow’s family (a literary family, nothing like Greg Bellow’s family growing up). The book itself is structured so as to tell of two fathers, two Saul Bellows.
The motives of Janna Malamud Smith were similar. She is the other of the biographers, the biographer of the other two books I am reading. Hers are Private Matters: In Defense of the Personal Life and My Father is a Book: A Memoir of Bernard Malamud. She inspired Greg Bellow perhaps. Her father and his father were friends and were both the famous writers of fiction, the very influential writers of books, that I mentioned at the start of this blogpost. She starts off a talk about their fathers, and their biographies, in a video online here.
I think these three books belong together in a way. I think they are in part the intersection of two families, two children, two professions, two sorts of writing, in books. I said reading these is impossible. And yet I’m quite sure if I don’t I will have missed much. Already the fathers have impacted me. And now I find more in common with these their two children. Private matters, heart, memoir, book, memoir, are now open, to be opened and read.
There are a number of things in China that are not spoken in public easily. Chinese speaker Julian Baird Gewirtz, writing for The Huffington Post, did manage to report publicly on his hearing and presumably speaking “a marvelous bilingual pun”:
“To bi or not to bi?”
Gerwitz was at a play written by a woman for English audiences, translated by a man for Chinese audiences. A part of the “crowd on opening night, which was predominantly women, [who] seemed highly excited,” some “college students,” with “[a]most everyone attending the performance … under 30,” he was “the only Caucasian person there.” Gerwitz goes on:
As in the English-language version, the actress Lin Han concluded one of her pieces by chanting the word “bi” over and over again, zealously calling on the largely female audience to do the same. But from this Beiing crowd, a few male voices yelled out the word once; not a single female voice could be heard…. As I talked to some Chinese young men and women after the show, they seemed undecided. “It was very challenging for me to hear that word [bi] said by a woman,” said one young woman. “Men use it, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a woman say it before.”
For his English-reading Huffington Post audience, the reporter translates: “the word “bi” [is] a vulgar slang term for the female genitalia.” He goes on to report how, with no apologies either to Mr. William Shakespeare or to Ms. Eve Ensler, Mr. Wang Chong has radically played on Hamlet’s opener and has rendered The Vagina Monologues as simply The V Monologues or, officially, “‘V独白’ (V-dubai).” Here’s the fuller report of what took place on that March 11, 2009.
(Time magazine’s Emily Rauhala followed up also to recall that this really was not the first attempt in China to translate and to show the play; she suggests that it was the unspeakable word in question that, in 2004, led to failures of tries at official runs of the play for Chinese audiences. The Chinese entry on the play in Wikipedia gives some of the history and maintains a link to the Wang Chong online public announcement, which is a bilingual program.)
Another Chinese speaker, writing for The New York Times, has today reported on something similar. Didi Kirsten Tatlow has told of the play “Our Vaginas, Ourselves” which has shown since January 2013 “about 10 times in Beijing, Tianjin and Xiamen.” She explains how the “English title… makes reference to the feminist classic ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ — its Chinese title translates as ‘The Way of the Vagina’.” Tatlow quotes the play’s producer to summarize it:
Of the play’s 11 scenes, eight consist of original material, while two are Chinese translations of excerpts from Ms. Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues,” and one is from an earlier Chinese play inspired by the American play, Ms. [Hang] Ji said.
And she describes the very opening scene:
“I’ll say it: vagina!” two actresses, called A and B, say in Mandarin, on a stage with minimal props.
“I’ll say it in the Shanxi dialect: vagina,” B says. “In the Wenzhou dialect: vagina,” A says.
Then it’s the Hubei dialect, and so on until they have uttered the word in 10 dialects, the audience reacting with delight to the shock of the familiar, yet rarely heard word, spoken in their hometown tongues.
Now, the NYT reporter is writing this for English reading audiences. Chinese readers would likely see this as 阴道! Quite a start to any play in any language!
(These reports, written by Chinese speakers for English readers, suggest that translations — and even the originals too — hardly get at all the play. There is “trans-cultural” and “bi-lingual” and [what Mikhail Epstein might call] “inter-lational” play here. There is feminist play that encroaches on the male domains, in both the West and in China. It some reminds me of an internet youtube version of A Chinese Girl’s Vagina Monologues Presentation In University. Some plays must be experienced, and read, and read, and heard. It’s all very complex, except for people like Didi Kirsten Tatlow and Julian Baird Gewirtz, who seem to live [what Pearl S. Buck called] mentally bi-focal. UPDATE: I meant to include this link to bilingual reporter Eric Abrahamsen‘s post, “The Unspeakable Bi,” as if that might help some readers here with what the audience of V独白 was struggling to say.)
The New York Times is reporting that Carmel O’Shannessy has found a language in its formative period of creation in northern Australia. But I think its lead exaggerates O’Shannessy’s claims:
There are many dying languages in the world. But at least one has recently been born, created by children living in a remote village in northern Australia. Carmel O’Shannessy, a linguist at the University of Michigan, has been studying the young people’s speech for more than a decade and has concluded that they speak neither a dialect nor the mixture of languages called a creole, but a new language with unique grammatical rules. The language, called Warlpiri rampaku, or Light Warlpiri, is spoken only by people under 35 in Lajamanu, an isolated village of about 700 people in Australia’s Northern Territory. In all, about 350 people speak the language as their native tongue.
But O’Shannessy seems to claim less novelty in a recent abstract:
Light Warlpiri, a new Australian mixed language combining Warlpiri (Pama-Nyungan) with varieties of English and/or Kriol that has emerged within approximately the last thirty-five years, shows radical restructuring of the verbal auxiliary system, including modal categories that differ from those in the source languages. The structure of Light Warlpiri overall is that of a mixed language, in that most verbs and some verbal morphology are drawn from English and/or Kriol, and most nominal morphology is from Warlpiri. Nouns are drawn from both Warlpiri-lexicon and English-lexicon sources. The restructuring of the auxiliary system draws selectively on elements from Warlpiri and several varieties and styles of English and/or Kriol, combined in such a way as to produce novel constructions. It may be that when multiple sources provide input to a rapidly emerging new system, innovative categories are likely to appear.
As I understand her claims, O’Shannessy is asserting that most of Light Warlpiri draws from English, Kriol, and Warlpiri, with some novel constructions in the verbal auxiliary system. In particular, it is somewhat misleading for a newspaper to claim Light Warlpiri is “neither a dialect nor the mixture of languages called a creole” when the researcher involved asserts “the structure of Light Warlpiri overall is that of a mixed language.”