Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer: Structure, Coherence, Intertextuality, and Historical Context

UoM administered thesis: Phd

Abstract

The present dissertation offers a literary profile of the enigmatic Gaonic era work known as Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer (PRE). This profile is based on an approach informed by the methodology theorized in the Manchester-Durham Typology of Anonymous and Pseudepigraphic Jewish Literature, c.200 BCE to c.700 CE, Project (TAPJLA). It is offered as a necessary prolegomenon to further research on contextualising PRE in relation to earlier Jewish tradition (both rabbinic and non-rabbinic), in relation to Jewish literature of the Gaonic period, and in relation to the historical development of Judaism in the early centuries of Islam. Chapter 1 sets out the research question, surveys, and critiques existing work on PRE, and outlines the methodology. Chapter 2 provides necessary background to the study of PRE, setting out the evidence with regard to its manuscripts and editions, its recensional and redactional history, its reception, and its language, content, dating, and provenance. Chapters 3 and 4 are the core of the dissertation and contain the literary profile of PRE. Chapter 3 offers an essentially synchronic text-linguistic description of the work under the following headings: Perspective; PRE as Narrative; PRE as Commentary; PRE as Thematic Discourse; and Coherence. Chapter 4 offers an essentially diachronic discussion of PRE's intertexts, that is to say, other texts with which it has, or is alleged to have, a relationship. The texts selected for discussion are: the Hebrew Bible, Rabbinic Literature (both the classic rabbinic "canon" and "late midrash"), the Targum, the Pseudepigrapha, Piyyut, and certain Christian and Islamic traditions. Chapter 5 offers conclusions in the form of a discussion of the implications of the literary profile presented in chapters 3-4 for the methodology of the TAPJLA Project, for the problem of the genre of PRE, and for the question of PRE's literary and historical context. The substantial Appendix is integral to the argument. It sets out much of the raw data on which the argument is based. I have removed this data to an appendix so as not to impede the flow of the discussion in the main text. The Appendix also contains my entry for the TAPJLA database, to help illuminate the discussion of my methodology, and a copy of my published article on the cosmology of PRE, to provide further support for my analysis of this theme in PRE.

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Original languageEnglish
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Award date1 Aug 2015