Sycamore Hall, rm 207
Read some of my work here: https://iub.academia.edu/EvaMroczek
Listen to an interview with me here: http://wfhb.org/news/the-custom-house-episode-10-the-ruins-of-biblical-hegemony-a-tale-told-at-qumran/
I study the texts and traditions of Ancient Judaism, including the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and para-biblical texts, with a special interest in the development and interpretation of prophecy, prayer, and lament literature in second temple Jewish culture. I seek to reconstruct the broader imaginative world behind the formation and early interpretation of these writings. My research investigates the concept of writing itself in the ancient Jewish imagination, in a scribal culture whose categories and definitions for understanding texts were quite different from those of modern “book culture.” Before the codex, the printing press, and authorial copyright, how were texts developed and used, and what are the implications of these questions for the way we understand the history of the Hebrew Bible? I place the field of Biblical Studies in conversation with the broader history of Jewish reading and writing, as well as with Book History and Information Studies, which both investigate the roles of material media and social contexts in the transmission and preservation of cultural memory. This interdisciplinary approach allows for cross-cultural and cross-historical comparisons that can provide new ways of approaching ancient Jewish texts. Recently, I considered how “post-book” digital culture transforms practices of text production and reading, and argued that reflecting on these profound changes can invigorate our thinking about concepts of authorship, authority, and textual transmission in the “pre-book” world, as well.
My current book project is entitled "The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity." Using the collection and reception of psalms as a case study, it considers how one might speak of a literary tradition before categories of “Bible” and “book” had emerged. My sources are a multigeneric corpus of apocryphal literature from Hellenistic and Roman Judaism, written and preserved alongside biblical literature, considered comparatively with late-antique and medieval Syriac texts documenting their reception in eastern Christian circles. The Jewish texts have primarily been treated as a handmaid to the study of the Bible, rather than as a body of ancient literature on their own terms. I seek to reclaim these sources for the ancient world. I avoid reading early Jewish texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek merely for what they tell us about later religious corpora—rather, I take a cue from their Syriac readers to recover what literature and writing meant in the ancient imagination. Before authorial property, widespread literacy, or a fixed idea of scripture, how did ancient people think about and organize their own literature?
What emerges are ways of imagining and classifying writing that are different from modern concepts of “Bible,” and different from modern scholarly anxieties about identifying texts, establishing authors, and completing bibliographies. Instead, ancient people inhabited a messier, less defined textual world—one that was not constrained by a rigid concept of scripture, and one that was not entirely within their reach. Rather than ‘authors’ as figures that authorize and organize texts, we see generative literary characters who were known for the skill of writing; rather than ‘books,’ we have multigenerational projects that enabled their own expansion. The way ancient people conceptualized the totality of their literary inventory was often vague and undefined—characterized by a cultural receptivity to incompleteness, fragmentation, and possibility: the world is full of secrets, and books—more books, better books!—are waiting to be discovered under every stone.