Review: The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History

The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History
The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History by James L. Kugel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book much more than I was expecting to. While Alter’s book on biblical poetry has some important criticism of Kugel, reading Kugel was far more enlightening to me.

Kugel has correctly discerned the essence of parallelism as a progression from A to B in a “what is more” fashion, instead of focusing on rhyme or meter. He then gives us a thorough historical roadmap of the journey to understand biblical poetics, including a lot of blind alleys, as well as real advances.

The payoff for me comes as this book relates to preaching poetic passages, and especially in making informed liturgical judgments about psalm-singing; i.e., in that I have greater sympathy for those who point out the shortcomings of metrical psalmody.

Oh, and a moment of near-Wodehousian glory:
“For O’Connor has strung his net far too tightly to snag only poetic mackeral while letting prosaic minnows swim free.” 319

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