chercheur, anthropologue, pédagogue

Category: Books

Publication of “Marcel Jousse, lecteur de Bergson”

We are delighted to announce the publication by Editions du Cerf of this book by Elisabeth (Clara) Vasseur. It is derived from the doctoral thesis in philosophy she defended in December 2019 at the Institut Catholique de Paris under the title “Marcel Jousse, philosophe, Dialogue avec Bergson.”

Here’s the translation of the presentation given on the publisher’s website:

Jousse – he found a seam, as they say,” confides Bergson in an interview with Lydie Adolphe.
The relationship that Marcel Jousse, researcher, teacher and churchman, maintained with the philosopher Henri Bergson throughout his forty-odd years of teaching is paradoxical, to say the least. Between admiration and rejection, Jousse claimed “his” reading of Bergson. Free and inspiring, often critical, even verging on caricature, this invigorating reading acts in return on the reader, whether a connoisseur of Bergson’s work or not. According to Jousse, the bodily-manual gesture, the global gesture, lies at the heart of the philosopher’s thought. Bergson plays out his thoughts with his hands, with his whole body, before throwing them into his books. Knowledge of the anthropological laws of oral style formulated by Jousse enables us to better grasp the particularity of Bergson’s style, which is close to Péguy’s and resembles the oral style of rhythmo-mimeurs. Jousse and Bergson: two names that left their mark on their era. The strong bond that unites the two thinkers is at the heart of this investigation – which could also be described as a “quest” – that is both philosophical and historical. This book joins the long list of “Bergson readers”, whether or not they are Bergsonians.

Élisabeth Vasseur has a PhD in philosophy and lives in Germany. She has contributed to making Marcel Jousse’s work better known, particularly in Germany.

This publication is the culmination of a long period of work by the author, which began in 2016 with the establishment of a co-supervision for her thesis between the Institut Catholique de Paris and the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt in Germany. Her research work was supervised by Professors Emmanuel Falque and Walter Schweidler. She also helped develop a link between the Association Marcel Jousse and the Institut Catholique de Paris, culminating in the reception of the Jousse archives by this institution, and the publication on this occasion of a volume of the journal Transversalités entirely devoted to Marcel Jousse.

Her work received financial support from the Association Marcel Jousse. Through this research, we felt it was important to continue forging links between Marcel Jousse, perceived as an unclassifiable Jesuit researcher, and the intellectual history of the 20th century. If, a century later, his work seems more the fruit of an isolated trajectory, it is important to emphasize that Jousse maintained numerous dialogues during his lifetime, directly or indirectly, with leading French thinkers and researchers of his time.

Rémy Guérinel, for example, showed the importance of his links with his masters at the Collège de France, psychologist Pierre Janet and Abbé Rousselot, founder of experimental phonetics, two important but somewhat forgotten figures.
Clara-Élisabeth Vasseur has had the courage to tackle the philosophical and historical links between Jousse and Bergson, the most renowned French philosopher when Jousse began teaching in 1931. As she explained in a 2020 presentation (available on video for association members), she didn’t do “the thesis on Jousse and Bergson” but “a thesis” on the subject, hoping to arouse interest and be followed by others. With only 3 years to complete her project, she had to choose certain paths and discard others.

Yet her work is not lacking in ambition: the author draws on a sound knowledge of both Bergson’s and Jousse’s work; but she has not stopped at a comparative exegesis of the writings of these two thinkers. In an investigative approach, she has also sought to cross-reference and link what Jousse says about Bergson in his lectures, what Bergson’s collaborator Lydie Adolphe says about Jousse, and traces of this intellectual relationship preserved in the archives of both, published along with other unpublished material in the book’s appendix. The reader will find numerous extracts from lectures on Bergson given by Marcel Jousse at the Sorbonne. One of these lectures is entirely devoted to Bergsonian intuition.

It is to be hoped that this book will help to foster a dialogue between those interested in the work of the anthropologist of gesture and those interested in the work of the philosopher!

Thomas Marshall

Member of the Board of the Association Marcel Jousse

Just published : The Forgotten Compass

It is an event. The Forgotten Compass – Marcel Jousse and the Exploration of the Oral World is the first collective book devoted to the actuality of Marcel Jousse’s work in the academic field of biblical scholarship. It brings together contributions in English from eight international specialists and also gives voice to Jousse himself through the text of two of his lectures. Marcel Jousse’s work in this field is like a “compass” that the book proposes to rediscover.


This book is published as part of a specialized collection that aims to renew this field of research: Biblical Performance Criticism Series. Like Marcel Jousse in his time, this collection makes the following observation:

The ancient societies of the Bible were overwhelmingly oral. People originally experienced the traditions now in the Bible as oral performances. Focusing on the ancient performance of biblical traditions enables us to shift academic work on the Bible from the mentality of a modern print culture to that of an oral/scribal culture.” [i.e., where writing belongs to scribes]

It follows the publication in this collection in 2018 of Memory, Memorization, and Memorizers: The Galilean Oral-Style Tradition and Its Traditionists, a collection of texts by Jousse edited and translated into English by Edgard Sienaert, with a foreword by Werner Kelber. This volume will also be published in 2023 in its French version by the Cerf editions.

Edited by Werner Kelber, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Rice University (Texas, USA) and Bruce Chilton, Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Bard College (New York State, USA), The Forgotten Compass is the culmination of several years of work. A milestone was the seminar on Marcel Jousse and Oral Theory held on November 26, 2019 at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in San Diego. Organized by Werner Kelber, the high quality of this seminar was unanimously appreciated by the participants. So much so that the decision was made to transform the trial into a collective work. 3 years later, it is done!


As form criticism arose, the French anthropologist Marcel Jousse developed a hermeneutical paradigm, global in scope and prescient in its vision but opposed to the philological paradigm of biblical studies. While the philological methodology came to define modernity’s biblical hermeneutics, Jousse’s rhythmically energized paradigm was marginalized and largely forgotten. Although Jousse has left relatively few traces in writing, many of his more than one thousand lectures, delivered at four different academic institutions in Paris between 1931 and 1957, have been edited and translated into English by Edgard Sienaert. The Forgotten Compass surveys Jousse’s views on biblical tradition and scholarship, documenting the relevance of his paradigm for current biblical studies. What distinguishes Jousse’s paradigm is that it is firmly established within the orbit of ancient communications and deeply rooted in Jewish tradition. The Forgotten Compass challenges readers to come to appreciate the print Bible’s lack of fluency in the very sensibilities privileged by Jousse’s paradigm and to raise consciousness about the multivocal, multisensory culture in which the biblical traditions emerged and from which they drew their initial nourishment.”  (source : Wipf and Stock)


List of Contributors
1. The Work of Marcel Jousse in Context | Werner H. Kelber | 1
2. Mimism and the Ancient Biblical Recitatives | Marcel Jousse | 54
3. The Anthropology of Mimism, of Memory, and of the Invisible | Edgard Sienaert | 71
4. An Oral Perspective on Proverbs 31:10–31 | Mark Timothy Lloyd Holt | 104
5. What Use is Jousse? Oral Form as a Mnemonic Device in the Hodayot | Shem Miller | 127
6. Sound, Memory, and the Oral Style | Margaret E. Lee | 150
7. Jousse, Oral Composition, and the Gospel of Mark | Joanna Dewey | 180
8. Origin and Techniques of the Biblical Recitations | Marcel Jousse | 198
9. The Au/Orality of the Aramaic Gospel | Bruce Chilton 211
10. Marcel Jousse, the Synoptic Problem, and the Past and Future of Gospel Studies | Matthew D. C. Larsen | 234
11. Conclusion: Implications of the Work of Marcel Jousse | Werner H. Kelber | 258


In order to give the public an overview of the important issues addressed in the book and the perspectives it opens up, Werner Kelber has given us permission to share the pages that close the book.

Download this extract (6 pages)

Buy online

Somes appreciations on the book

“Experience the excitement of discovery—of an author whose work may well change your way of looking at the Bible. This book lets Marcel Jousse speak for himself but also allows us the privilege of accompanying major scholars as they step out of their routine to engage critically and enthusiastically with Jousse. Unsurprisingly, Jousse taught in Paris. Perhaps surprisingly, he was a Jesuit priest.”

—Bernhard Lang, University of Paderborn

“This excellent introduction to the French ethnographer Marcel Jousse’s pioneering and groundbreaking work on orality and memory within the Palestinian Jewish milieu of Jesus enables readers to (re)discover his contributions to the study of the New Testament and modern intellectual history. Combining two of Jousse’s lectures with an introduction and critical assessments, the book indicates his avant-garde ideas and their relevance for contemporary scholarship.”

—Catherine Hezser, SOAS University of London

“What a joy this volume is for anyone interested in orality! Though focused on biblical studies, it equally appeals to communication or media ecology scholars by its introduction of the work of the anthropologist Marcel Jousse to new generations. Seeing and hearing Jousse in the context of his work makes him come alive and opens up additional ways of thinking about how people interact with their communication environments.”

—Paul A. Soukup, SJ, Santa Clara University

The Forgotten Compass points the way to a paradigm more fully suited to the Aramaic Targumic world of Rabbi Jeshua of Nazareth. A global anthropologist and contemporary of Rudolf Bultmann, Jousse offers a robust, full-bodied approach to the Scriptures, at once very old and very new. Jousse is a treasure trove indeed for younger scholars especially who seek alternative pathways to discovery.”

—Randolph F. Lumpp, Regis University, emeritus

“Jousse used an argument from the astronomer Laplace: great discoveries occur when previously distant concepts finally meet. The Forgotten Compass is one of those rare events. This magnificent collection constitutes a true reencounter, where Gospel studies come again face to face with the investigation of the traditions of oral style. The intellectual gestures of both sides will create a current able to irrigate the unified field of biblical studies and oral traditions.”

—Gabriel Bourdin, Institute of Anthropological Research

“Marcel Jousse was well known for his groundbreaking study of oral tradition and memory. To celebrate this work and to probe further its significance and ongoing relevance for biblical studies and Jesus research, editors Werner Kelber and Bruce Chilton have assembled an impressive roster of scholars who assess Joussean thought. Rich with insight, these essays move forward in positive ways the study of orality.”

—Craig A. Evans, Houston Baptist University

“Anthropology of gesture” published in Italian

We are pleased to announce the news of the publication, in August 2022, of L’antropologia del gesto by Mimesis Edizioni, under the direction of Antonello Colimberti.

Mimesis Edizioni is part of the same group as Editions Mimesis in France and other companies publishing in Italian, English and German. Their works cover all fields of human and social sciences, arts, architecture, political essays…

This translation covers the first volume of Marcel Jousse’s posthumous work, entitled L’anthropologie du geste, which was originally published in French in 1969 by Editions Resma, before being reprinted by Gallimard in 1974. Gallimard’s 2008 paperback reprint brought together the original 3 volumes under the same title. The Italian translation of the other 2 volumes is also underway. Jousse’s collaborator, Gabrielle Baron, has brought together the beginning of a synthesis written by Jousse at the end of his life, as well as other short texts published during his lifetime, which he referred to as “memoirs”.

As Edgard Sienaert, who published an English translation of the same texts and shared some thoughts on the subject (Nunc magazine, 2011), knows from experience, this is a delicate undertaking. These texts fall outside our culture’s established canons of an intellectual work. For Jousse, the transition to the written word is in fact a second stage, from crystallization in algebraic formulas to a living teaching, in which he gives all of himself, in interaction with his audience. So there are 2 Jousse: in his texts and in his lectures. In the former, we have the advantage of conciseness, which can be an obstacle to his intelligibility; whereas in the latter (via their transcriptions available in digital format) we have the advantage of a mastered and richly illustrated oral improvisation, which represents a considerable corpus to peruse if we wish to have an overall vision (as Titus Jacquignon has done in recent years for his doctoral thesis, or Edgard Sienaert a few years ago with a collection of lecture extracts).

Ultimately, the challenge for the reader is to admit, as a consequence of the anthropology of mimism, that Jousse’s thought no longer exists, strictly speaking, since his death! He has passed on to us, through the subjective mirrors formed by his sentences (oral or written), the task of reflecting within ourselves, individually and through collaboration between us, our human condition: “the primordial, inexhaustible volume is within you, in the awareness of your deepest being.” (lecture at “École d’anthropologie”, 12/11/1951). Understanding the human condition, which is indissolubly universal in its potential and singular in its realization by each people and each individual, is a project that can be driven by a wide variety of objectives. All these trajectories have a single point of departure: the totality of what your experience has enabled you to “record” unconsciously.

That’s why Jousse talks so much about himself: he takes responsibility for a radically 1st-person point of view. If we understand this posture, then we can read his words as a double invitation:

  • An invitation to make an effort of “intellectual sympathy” to try to perceive the world as he perceived it, through the struggles that were his, in his time. A sympathy that cannot aim at fusion, but at best at resonance (according to Natalie Depraz);
  • An invitation, too, to detach ourselves from Jousse’s words and turn our attention to reality, in a new way, and if possible going beyond what he was able to say about it.

Thomas Marshall


Here are a few lines proposed by the publisher to introduce the issues at stake in this book (translation from Italian):

The figure of Marcel Jousse appears in our century as that of a true occult Master, whose influence has remained underground, but therefore deeper and more effective. Jousse is quite rightly the precursor of this turning point in the forms of representation of the human sciences, especially anthropology, which represents the most critical and creative achievement of our time. This turnaround represents a radical questioning of the traditional model of monological and authoritarian writing, centered on the notion of “author” and on frontal, flat, uniform, Euclidean representation, in favor of polyphonic and multi-perspectival models. The current conflict, both inside and outside cultural institutions, is played out on these profound, even political choices, where different ways of understanding “scientificity” are measured and confronted. The revival of interest in Marcel Jousse’s work, after the attack and momentary historical defeat it suffered at the hands of the academic institutions of the time, is linked precisely to this underlying theme: the inclusion of experimentation not only as an object but as a method and content of the human sciences.


Here is a translation into French by Régine Marie Porcher of some of the articles that were published to report on the book:

Article dans Lo Spettacoliere, 15/08/2022

Article dans L’Avvenire, 26/08/2022

Article dans La Difesa del Popolo, 20/09/2022

Article dans la revue Doppiozero, 11/11/2022


Find out more on the publisher’s website

A new book of Marcel Jousse published in English

Memory, Memorization and Memorizer. The Galilean Oral-Style Tradition and Its Traditionists

published by Cascade Books (Eugene, Oregon, USA) in the Biblical Performance Criticism Series.

It is a selection of Marcel Jousse’s conferences, composed, translated and commented by Edgard Sienaert.

The foreword is written by Werner H. Kelber, New Testament researcher, retired from Rice University (Texas, USA).

“The Ethnography of Rhythm: Orality and Its Technologies” by Haun Saussy

Haun Saussy is University Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago.

Presentation of the book :

Or Words to That Effect – Orality and the writing of literary history

Edited by Daniel F. Chamberlain and J. Edward Chamberlin from University of Toronto, this collective book includes an essay by Edgard Sienaert :

Levelling the Orality-Literacy Playing Field: Marcel Jousse’s Laboratory of Awareness and the Oral-Literary Continuum.’

Presentation :

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