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Art of Biblical Poetry Paperback – 22 Sep 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 2nd Revised edition edition (22 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465022561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465022564
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.9 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 371,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"One of the most interesting studies of poetic technique I have read in years."-New York Times Book Review"

About the Author

Robert Alter is Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime contributions to American letters, he lives in Berkeley, California.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. Maytum on 22 Nov 2007
Format: Paperback
Robert Alter...'explores each of the main poetic genres of the Bible and brings to light all the underlying poetic principles. He enables the general reader and specialist alike to see these ancient poems afresh, and to appreciate the relation between poetic vehicle and religious vision. With great skill and clarity he shows how the poetry of the Bible may be read with more awareness and in closer consonance with the original intended meaning.'
From the rear cover of the book.
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By eaglesstar2 on 17 Mar 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this is a great book for the serious student .helpful in many ways , very good interesting, certainly worth the money
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Alter is a brilliant guide to the Bible 28 Jan 2010
By Alan A. Elsner - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This companion volume to "The Art of Biblican Narrative" is equally illuminating although the subject matter is very different. Still, Alter is to my mind the deepest and most perceptive literary analyst I have ever read. His writing is not easy and I sometimes have to look up words he uses -- but he reads so closely and with such sympathy and sensitivity that his insights are often simply revelatory.

Here he examines Biblical poetry with close readings from selections of the prophets, the Song of Songs, Pslams, Proverbs and most of all Job. Some of the texts he examines were faily familiar to me. Others not so much.

Biblical poetry is based on a technique called "parallelism" rather than on rhyme or meter. Parallelism splits each line into two parts and the second somehow reflects upon, amplifies, intensifies or illuminates the first. The form is quite stiff and unyielding at first sight -- yet Alter shows how in the hands of the anonymous authors whose names are mostly lost to us, it can become an instrument of tremendous power.

Anyone interested in the Bible should read this.
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
A literary approach to reading Biblical poetry 8 Dec 2004
By Shalom Freedman - Published on
Format: Paperback
Alter continues here what he started in ' The Art of Biblical Narrative' and applies the techniques of literary criticism to the Biblical text. He does not discard Lowth's discovery of parallelism as the key technique of Biblical poetry but rather sharpens and intensifies the meaning of this concept. He shows the way different kind of parallelism operate in the text. He illustrates how intensification of meaning comes through repetition and variation. He closely reads some of the great Biblical poetry.

This is a wonderful work for all those who love the Bible and all those who love Poetry.
51 of 60 people found the following review helpful
This book should never be out of print 17 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is one of the books that I was supposed to read for a class but didn't get around to it until now. I am halfway through this book and it is one of the most readable academic books that I've read. It is no wonder that Robert Alter has set and will set the standards by which Biblical litery criticism is judged.
The Bible comes alive under his translations and his insights into the text make this old book new and exciting.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A lifesaver 3 Sep 2010
By Bookworm - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I took on the task of teaching the book of Job in my adult church class. I would have been completely lost without this book. It opened for me, and for my students, the complex and rich world of Hebrew poetry. It was clear, illuminating, inspiring, and insightful. The students gave the class rave reviews, and I openly promoted this book as the reason!
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Poetics, Eternity, and the Psalter 20 Nov 2010
By David W. Stroud - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent tome, fully complementary to the earlier THE ART OF BIBLICAL NARRATIVE by the same author. It begins with an excellent three chapter introduction to biblical poetics and proceeds to work out the basics in the following chapters. For those who regularly incorporate the Psalter in worship, this is a very helpful theoretical and practical text. It enhances the appreciation of the poetic techniques employed with a good discussion of the underlying Hebrew for those reading in translations. It also gives a good, succinct overview of the dominant understandings of these matters over a large expanse of time. Areas of agreement and disagreement with prior understandings of biblical poetics are well stated and concise, authoritatively addressed, and relevant works cited for further study.

As a student in the Anglican School of Ministry, Little Rock, Arkansas, I have utilized both THE ART OF BIBLICAL POETRY and THE ART OF BIBLICAL NARRATIVE as assigned texts for course work. They will remain on my bookshelf for future reference in my ministry as Deacon and, God willing, the Presbyterate. As an Anglican, I find that the regular use of the Psalter in daily Morning and Evening Prayer, in the Holy Eucharist,in Baptism and Ordinations, and in other services occasionally utilized is genuinely enhanced by this material. I give it my unqualified highest recommendation. Enjoy!
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