Knowledge and Rhetoric in Medical Commentary

Ancient Mesopotamian Commentaries on a Handbook of Medical Diagnosis (Sa-gig), Cuneiform Monographs vol. 49/1


Author: John Z Wee
Knowledge and Rhetoric in Medical Commentary is intended for historians of medicine and interpretation, and explores the dynamic between scholastic rhetoric and medical knowledge in ancient commentaries on a Mesopotamian Diagnostic Handbook.
In line with commentators self-fashioning as experts of diverse disciplines, commentaries display intertextuality involving a variety of lexical, astronomical, religious, magic, and literary compositions, while employing patterns of argumentation that resist categorization within any single branch of knowledge. Commentators choices of topics and comments, however, sought to harmonize atypical language and ideas in the Handbook with conventional ways of perceiving and describing the sick body in therapeutic recipes. Scholastic rhetoricsupposedly unfettered to any disciplineserved in fact as a pretext for affirming current forms of medical knowledge.

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John Z. Wee, Ph.D. (2012), Yale University, is Assistant Professor of Assyriology at the University of Chicago. He is author of books and articles on medicine and astronomy in Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman antiquity, and editor of The Comparable Body (Brill, 2017).
"The two-volume work of John Z. Wee is a welcome new contribution to the discussion of Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform commentariesan at times complex and, to readers unaware of its intricacies, often opaque textual genre, mainly known from the late time of Cuneiform Culture. (...) The first volume addresses not only Assyriologists but also scholars interested in the history of medicine and the history of interpretation and science. The study presented here includes a great many detailed discussions and presentations of interrelated issues within Mesopotamian commentary literature particularly in relation to the DH and its structure, as well as the context of these commentaries and their arguments in respect to their use and institutional background. Volume two provides the relevant data, presenting a collective edition of all commentaries on the DH so far known. This offers the particular advantage of making all relevant data accessible in a printed, citable form together with detailed philological commentaries and discussions on difficult or peculiar words and phrases."
- Eric Schmidtchen, Universit de Genve, in Bibliotheca Orientalis LXXVIII N 3-4 (2021).
I. Knowledge and Rhetoric in Medical Commentary
Contents (Two Volumes)
List of Figures
Medical Text Labels and Abbreviations
Format and Translation Issues

I.1 Introduction to the Sa-gig Commentaries
 I.1.1 The Situatedness of Commentaries
 I.1.2 The Diagnostic Handbook Sa-gig and Its Serialization
 I.1.3 Serialized Variants and Their Interpretation
 I.1.4 The Presentation of Alternatives in Text Series and Commentaries

Chapter Two: Commentary and Scholastic Rhetoric

I.2.1 Commentary Designations and Scribal Actors
 I.2.1.1 Glossary (tu)
 I.2.1.2 Oral Lore (t p)
 I.2.1.3 Readings (malstu)
 I.2.1.4 Questionings (maaltu)
 I.2.1.5 From the Mouth of the Ummnu-scholar (a p ummni)
 I.2.1.6 Patterns of Commentary Designations

I.2.2 Textual Sources of Authority
 I.2.2.1 Lexical Text Citations
 I.2.2.2 Narratival Intertextuality

I.2.2 Forms of Argumentation
 I.2.3.1 Two-Member Arguments
 I.2.3.2 Multiple Member Arguments
 I.2.3.3 Single Member Arguments

I.2.4 Exemplar and License in Scholastic Hermeneutics

Chapter Three: Commentary and Medical Knowledge

I.3.1 Epistemic Progression in Medical Practice and Texts
 I.3.1.1 The Therapeutic Tradition
 I.3.1.2 Structuring the Diagnostic Handbook

I.3.2 Harmonizing Texts and Phenomena
 I.3.2.1 Knowledge Assumptions in Topic Choice
 I.3.2.2 The Pericope and Omissions from Topics
 I.3.2.3 Comment Choice and Argument as Pretext

I.3.1 Habits of Use and the Cuneiform Handbook

I.4 Conclusion: Scholasticism and the Boundaries for Interpretation

Appendix One: Embedded Variants in the Diagnostic Handbook Sa-gig

Appendix Two: Transliterations of Medical Texts
Index of Excerpts (Two Volumes)

II. Mesopotamian Commentaries on the Diagnostic Handbook Sa-gig
Contents (Two Volumes)
Medical Text Labels and Abbreviations
Format and Translation Issues

Chapter One: Edition of the Sa-gig Commentaries

II.1.1 Commentary Sa-gig 1A

II.1.2 Commentary Sa-gig 1B

II.1.3 Commentary Sa-gig 1C

II.1.4 Commentary Sa-gig 1D

II.1.5 Commentary Sa-gig 13

II.1.6 Commentary Sa-gig 3A

II.1.7 Commentary Sa-gig 3B

II.1.8 Commentary Sa-gig 3C

II.1.9 Commentary Sa-gig 4A

II.1.10 Commentary Sa-gig 4B

II.1.11 Commentary Sa-gig 4C

II.1.12 Commentary Sa-gig 5

II.1.13 Commentary Sa-gig 7A

II.1.14 Commentary Sa-gig 7B

II.1.15 Commentary Sa-gig 7Ca

II.1.16 Commentary Sa-gig 7Cb

II.1.17 Commentary Sa-gig 7Cc (?)

II.1.18 Commentary Sa-gig 10 & 11

II.1.19 Commentary Sa-gig 13+

II.1.20 Commentary Sa-gig 14

II.1.21 Commentary Sa-gig 18

II.1.22 Commentary Sa-gig 19

II.1.23 Commentary Sa-gig 21 & 22a

II.1.24 Commentary Sa-gig 23

II.1.25 Commentary Sa-gig 29

II.1.26 Commentary Sa-gig 34

II.1.27 Commentary Sa-gig 36

II.1.28 Commentary Sa-gig 39

II.1.29 Commentary Sa-gig 40A

II.1.30 Commentary Sa-gig 40B

Chapter Two: Commentary Notations

II.2.1 Disjunction Sign

II.2.2 The Case of / Where (a)

II.2.3 Which It Said (a iqb)

II.2.4 As in (libb)

II.2.5 Complement to (IGI / pni)

II.2.6 (Points) to (ana)

II.2.7 The Usual (Meaning) (kayyn)

II.2.8 Other Notations


Index of Excerpts (Two Volumes)
All interested in ancient histories of medicine and of interpretation, particularly as they pertain to Mesopotamian antiquity.