Secret Talk and Eavesdropping Scenes: Its Literary Effects and Significance in Biblical Narrative

in Vetus Testamentum
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Eavesdropping scenes are common features of ancient and modern literary creations. However, in spite of the contemporary interest in the literary and artistic character of biblical narratives, eavesdropping scenes in biblical narratives have received little scholarly treatment. This paper engages the presence, use and functions of eavesdropping scenes in biblical narrative. In particular, eavesdropping scenes aid characterization, trigger the plots of stories, introduce turning points, and increase the mimetic qualities of the story. On the other hand, eavesdropping scenes breach the borderlines between the private and public spaces by taking readers into the private world of biblical characters. On this discourse level, the reader also becomes an eavesdropper by overhearing/ reading the conversations situated in these eavesdropping scenes. In the same way, the narrator also shares the posture of the eavesdropper in the hearing/retelling of the story to the intended readers.

Secret Talk and Eavesdropping Scenes: Its Literary Effects and Significance in Biblical Narrative

in Vetus Testamentum




Komarova and Levin“Eavesdropping and Language Dynamics” 104. On the possible use of this means to protect conversation from eavesdropping in biblical narrative see P. Kyle McCarter Jr. I Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction Notes and Commentary. Anchor Bible 8 (New York: Doubleday 1980) 288 and Keith Bodner “Is Joab a Reader-Response Critic?” jsot 27 no. 1 (2002) 28.


See Eugene Goodheart“The Licensed Trespasser: The Omniscient Narrator in ‘Middlemarch,’” The Sewanee Review 107 no. 4 (1999) 555-568.


Seymour Chatman“Characters and Narrators: Filter, Center, Slant, and Interest-Focus,” Poetics Today 7 no. 2 (1986) 195


See John Vernon“Reading, Writing, and Eavesdropping: Some Thoughts on the Nature of Realistic Fiction,” Kenyon Reviews 4 no. 4 (1982) 46.


Vernon“Reading Writing and Eavesdropping” 46.


Similarly“The reader is absorbed in the storyworld without being aware of the author-narrator as a communicator or a guide, unless there are explicit features in the text that explicitly acknowledge these pragmatic agents . . .” See Arthur C. Graesser and Cheryl Bowers, “Who Said What? Source Memory for Narrator and Character Agents in Literary Short Stories,” Journal of Educational Psychology 91 no. 2 (1999) 285.


Vernon“Reading Writing and Eavesdropping” 49.


George W. SavranTelling and Retelling: Quotation in Biblical Narrative (Bloomington: Indiana University Press1988) 19 82 29-36.


SavranTelling and Retelling40.


SavranTelling and Retelling41.


SternbergThe Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading (Bloomington: Indiana University Press1987) 393.


WenhamGenesis 1-15206.


Robert AlterThe Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books1981) 91-113.


AlterThe Art of Biblical Narrative102.


SternbergThe Poetics of Biblical Narrative420. Auld also observed “Saul changes the order of the three elements from Doeg’s report and ignores the earlier disjunctive word order. The origins of the sword are passed over and food and sword are lumped together in one giving.” See Auld I & ii Samuel 267.


SavranTelling and Retelling93.


See AlterThe Art of Biblical Narrative84.


Birch“1 and 2 Samuel,” The New Interpreter’s Bible13 vols (Nashville: Abingdon 1994-2004) 1111.


See Kathy Mezei“Spinsters, Surveillance, and Speech: The Case of Miss Maple, Miss Mole, and Miss Jekyll,” Journal of Modern Literature 30 no. 2 (2007) 107.


William F. Edmiston“Focalization and the First-Person Narrator: A Revision of the Theory,” Poetry Today 10 no. 4 (1989) 729-744.


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