Wisdom, orality, and recovering native poetics
This chapter traces the shifting study of genres in biblical studies into the specialized subfield of wisdom literature and the parallel but separate development of folklore studies. It examines how form criticism has determined an understanding of the mashal and, consequently, the place of Proverbs in the study of wisdom literature. The chapter presents a working definition for the biblical mashal, an assertive statement that claims to thematize the world and its actors, sorting them into categories and drawing relationships between these categories. It suggests that historical-critical biblical scholarship has challenged the authorial and historical claims of the biblical text, but often neglects the literary claims made by the texts. The native speaker is aware, often subconsciously, of the grammar of the speaker’s own culture of literary expression: the often implicit or collectively assumed rules that govern the composition, usage, and transmission of ethnic genres.