Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 54:1 (Mar 2011)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous


Book Reviews

Twice Used Songs: Performance Criticism of the Songs of Ancient Israel. By Terry Giles and William J. Doan. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009. xvii + 179 pp., $29.99 paper.

Terry Giles and William Doan use performance criticism to analyze the “twice-used songs” in the OT. Twice used songs are songs in the OT that have, according to the authors, been inserted into prose narratives. On page 19, the authors list identifying characteristics of such songs. For example, they sit somewhat awkwardly in their contexts, sometimes containing anachronistic details that indicate a use prior to their insertion into the second narratives. They also contribute little or nothing to the plot development of their narratives, but do contribute to the persuasiveness and audience participation of the narratives. They also were intended to be performed. The authors identify a list of fourteen twice-used songs in the OT, as well as a list of five songs twice used but not as songs! Daniel 2:20-23 is an example of the latter. The book also includes a chapter on songs not sung; the song of Moses (Deut 32:1-43) is cited as a prime example. God tells Moses to “write this song,” and according to Deuteronomy 31:30, Moses “spoke” the song to the assembly of Israel.

The original aim of Twice Used Songs is to apply performance criticism to these songs. Performance criticism, especially associated with drama and theatre studies, is a relatively recent discipline and the authors demonstrate a thorough acquaintance with the emerging theories in this area. As their diagram on page 15 indicates, performance theory lies at the intersection of a great range of disciplines, and (not surprisingly) they do not provide a concise definition of the discipline. They are, however, clear that “the way of thinking and the manner of communicating that are common in theatre and performance resides just below the surface of much of the Hebrew Bible text” (p. 15). A central distinction in their method is the one they make between iconic presentation and dialectic presentation. The former refers to the elements on display for spectators, whereas the latter refers to the interaction between the place of presentation, the presenters, and the spectators. Twice-used songs are characterized by a form of direct presentation that openly acknowledges the audience and involves them in the narrative.

Giles and Doan rightly connect their approach to the intention of the biblical storytellers and argue that performance criticism will add to the insights of literary approaches because twice-used songs have their own conventions and patterns that litera...

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