Cover image for Infant Weeping in Akkadian, Hebrew, and Greek Literature By David A. Bosworth

Infant Weeping in Akkadian, Hebrew, and Greek Literature

David A. Bosworth

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$29.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-1-57506-463-5

160 pages
6" × 9"
2016

Critical Studies in the Hebrew Bible

Infant Weeping in Akkadian, Hebrew, and Greek Literature

David A. Bosworth

“Bosworth’s work contributes much to the field by rethinking the way scholars approach texts, providing a concordance of baby incantations, and pushing for a crosscultural comparative approach. In highlighting crying infants, Bosworth provides them with agency. The work as a whole is a welcome addition to the field of children in the ancient world.”

 

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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.

“Bosworth’s work contributes much to the field by rethinking the way scholars approach texts, providing a concordance of baby incantations, and pushing for a crosscultural comparative approach. In highlighting crying infants, Bosworth provides them with agency. The work as a whole is a welcome addition to the field of children in the ancient world.”