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.
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