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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Infant Weeping in Akkadian, Hebrew, and Greek Literature
Bosworth, David A.

Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2016 pp. x + 148. $29.95

Series Information
Critical Studies in the Hebrew Bible, 8

Description: Those who have spent time within earshot of a crying baby know the stress this sound can induce. Considerable scientific research has been devoted to the causes and consequences of infant crying because it is a public health concern implicated in parental frustration and infant abuse. Infant Weeping seeks to draw on the extensive research on infant crying in order to understand better the motif of infant weeping in ancient literature. The present book contributes to the growing interest in correlating scientific and humanities scholarship. Scientific research can help bridge the cultural distance that separates modern readers from ancient texts. For example, the Akkadian incantations for soothing infants may appear to be strange magical texts from a foreign world (which they are), but they also reflect common human realities that have been part of the parent-infant relationship in all times and cultures. The incantations reflect and evoke emotions and responses familiar to anyone who has cared for a baby. Fuller understanding of the dynamics of the parent-child relationship can help us see commonalities across differences and make foreign texts more interesting and relevant. David Bosworth draws on the natural sciences to develop a theory for analyzing infant weeping in literature. He then analyzes ancient Akkadian magical incantations for soothing crying babies as well as portions of the Babylonian Creation and Flood stories; in the Hebrew Bible, he explores two infant abandonment stories (Genesis 21 and Exodus 2) and the many parallels between them that have been overlooked; finally he examines a select corpus of Greek infant abandonment stories, including stories found in Herodotus, Sophocles, and Diodorus, among other authors. He ultimately places these textual corpuses in comparison with one another.

Subjects: Methods, Linguistics, Akkadian, Greek, Hebrew, Social-Scientific Approaches, Anthropology, Sociology, Other Methods

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Review by Kristine Garroway
Published 10/18/2018
Citation: Kristine Garroway, review of David A. Bosworth, Infant Weeping in Akkadian, Hebrew, and Greek Literature, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2018).


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