stylistic device : when the end leads to the beginning

Jean-Michel Colin
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stylistic device : when the end leads to the beginning

Post by Jean-Michel Colin » July 20th, 2015, 3:52 pm

I was wondering if there is a name for this specific stylistic feature : the end leading back to the beginning.

What I have in mind is Mark 16:7 heading back toward Mark 1 ; especially if you consider Mark original text finishing at 16:8, there is here a "literary trick" that has been used by many authors. Which perfectly introduces my second question : are there other ancient writings (biblical or not) using such kind of feature ?

Stephen Carlson
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Re: stylistic device : when the end leads to the beginning

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 20th, 2015, 5:34 pm

Inclusio, perhaps?
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Re: stylistic device : when the end leads to the beginning

Post by cwconrad » July 20th, 2015, 5:57 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:Inclusio, perhaps?
That's a term that may well refer to what I have myself termed the Marcan "triptych" technique, wherein a framing story is split into two parts that enclose another story, as, e.g. Mk 14:1-2 and 10-11 enclose verses 3-9. I've never seen a term referring to the sort of da capo effect achieved by 16:7 and its suggestion that the reader should take a hint and go back to the beginning of the gospel and read again in the light of the ending. Of course, many won't accept that perspective, particularly those who doubt that 16:8 was the actual ending of Mark's gospel.
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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Re: stylistic device : when the end leads to the beginning

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 20th, 2015, 7:34 pm

cwconrad wrote:
Stephen Carlson wrote:Inclusio, perhaps?
That's a term that may well refer to what I have myself termed the Marcan "triptych" technique, wherein a framing story is split into two parts that enclose another story, as, e.g. Mk 14:1-2 and 10-11 enclose verses 3-9. I've never seen a term referring to the sort of da capo effect achieved by 16:7 and its suggestion that the reader should take a hint and go back to the beginning of the gospel and read again in the light of the ending. Of course, many won't accept that perspective, particularly those who doubt that 16:8 was the actual ending of Mark's gospel.
Elizabeth Shively gave a paper to that effect recently at SBL. Her literary theory was fairly modern and I forget the term she used.
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Jean-Michel Colin
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Re: stylistic device : when the end leads to the beginning

Post by Jean-Michel Colin » July 21st, 2015, 1:28 am

Stephen Carlson wrote: Elizabeth Shively gave a paper to that effect recently at SBL. Her literary theory was fairly modern and I forget the term she used.
Thanks ! Any clue how I would find the paper and the term ?

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Re: stylistic device : when the end leads to the beginning

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 21st, 2015, 2:10 am

I don't have the paper, but I found the abstract:
Elizabeth Shively, SBL 2012 wrote:Reading Backward from Mark’s Ending: A Retroactive Reading Hermeneutic
I examine anew Mark 16:8 as the ending of the Gospel from the perspective of a text-centered narrative strategy, using French literary critic Michael Riffaterre’s theory of intertextuality. While most interpretations of Mark’s ending read “forward,” I offer an interpretation that reads “backward.” Narrative critics generally interpret 16:8 as an open ending, employed as a rhetorical strategy of the implied author to invite the reader to complete the ending with a response. Opposing this view, a growing number of scholars since the 1990’s challenge the idea that Mark 16:8 is the intended ending, and some among them propose a lost or unfinished ending in which the risen Christ meets the disciples in Galilee. Both interpretations read forward by speculating a “text” to finish the story. I believe narrative criticism offers the best approach for intepreting Mark’s unexpected ending; but I use it by reading “backward.” I offer an interpretation of the text that employs Riffaterre’s theory of intertexutality, specifically his retroactive reading hermeneutic. According to Riffaterre, the reader decodes a text in two stages of reading, the first linear and heuristic, and the second retroactive and hermeneutical. “As he progresses through the text, the reader remembers what he has just read and modifies his understanding of it in the light of what he is now decoding…he is reviewing, revising, comparing backwards” (Semiotics of Poetry, 6). Reading includes a process of rereading, and the reader resolves textual oddities by referring to what he had encountered previously in the text. I will explore how the reader may seek for an explanation to the empty tomb account on an intertextual level through retroactive reading. In particular, I read the empty tomb account in light of the story of the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5). Through a retroactive reading strategy the Gerasene demoniac story appears as a resurrection account, and offers a frame to tell the reader how to interpret the empty tomb account. The result is an ending at 16:8 that fits Mark’s Gospel.
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Jean-Michel Colin
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Re: stylistic device : when the end leads to the beginning

Post by Jean-Michel Colin » July 21st, 2015, 2:28 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:I don't have the paper, but I found the abstract:
Elizabeth Shively, SBL 2012 wrote:Reading Backward from Mark’s Ending: A Retroactive Reading Hermeneutic
I examine anew Mark 16:8 as the ending of the Gospel from the perspective of a text-centered narrative strategy, using French literary critic Michael Riffaterre’s theory of intertextuality. While most interpretations of Mark’s ending read “forward,” I offer an interpretation that reads “backward.” Narrative critics generally interpret 16:8 as an open ending, employed as a rhetorical strategy of the implied author to invite the reader to complete the ending with a response. Opposing this view, a growing number of scholars since the 1990’s challenge the idea that Mark 16:8 is the intended ending, and some among them propose a lost or unfinished ending in which the risen Christ meets the disciples in Galilee. Both interpretations read forward by speculating a “text” to finish the story. I believe narrative criticism offers the best approach for intepreting Mark’s unexpected ending; but I use it by reading “backward.” I offer an interpretation of the text that employs Riffaterre’s theory of intertexutality, specifically his retroactive reading hermeneutic. According to Riffaterre, the reader decodes a text in two stages of reading, the first linear and heuristic, and the second retroactive and hermeneutical. “As he progresses through the text, the reader remembers what he has just read and modifies his understanding of it in the light of what he is now decoding…he is reviewing, revising, comparing backwards” (Semiotics of Poetry, 6). Reading includes a process of rereading, and the reader resolves textual oddities by referring to what he had encountered previously in the text. I will explore how the reader may seek for an explanation to the empty tomb account on an intertextual level through retroactive reading. In particular, I read the empty tomb account in light of the story of the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5). Through a retroactive reading strategy the Gerasene demoniac story appears as a resurrection account, and offers a frame to tell the reader how to interpret the empty tomb account. The result is an ending at 16:8 that fits Mark’s Gospel.
Very helpful!
Though I'm not convinced about a specific link of Jesus Resurrection to the story of the Gerasene demoniac, I find the approach enlightening.

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Re: stylistic device : when the end leads to the beginning

Post by Barry Hofstetter » July 22nd, 2015, 11:17 am

Yes, the technical term for this rhetorical device is inclusio or sometimes ring composition.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Re: stylistic device : when the end leads to the beginning

Post by cwconrad » July 22nd, 2015, 1:20 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:Yes, the technical term for this rhetorical device is inclusio or sometimes ring composition.
Sorry, but again I demur. I agree that inclusio is the Latin term equivalent to what in English is called "ring composition" -- especially with regard to Homeric verse and the insertion of a story at a point in the narrative after which the narrative returns to where it left off to include the inserted story. That occurs in Mark 2:5a λέγει τῷ παραλυτικῷ following which comes the inner narrative, then the earlier narrative is picked up at the end of 2:10 λέγει τῷ παραλυτικῷ. Here the link between forgiveness and healing is established. To be sure, not all would agree with this way of analyzing the text of this Marcan pericope.

But what happens in Mark 16:7-8 is different. The readers/listeners (of course this text was meant for an audience listening to a reader, not for a silent reader) are alerted: "He's not here! He told you to look for him in Galilee!" followed by the enigmatic verse 8: "The women were scared to death and didn't tell anybody!" How are we supposed to know that if they told nobody? The reader has got to take the hint (ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω): "Go back to the beginning of the gospel in Galilee and read it in the light of this announcement of the resurrection of Jesus." No, it doesn't say that in so many words: it hints at it. This is not inclusio; it is a literary device, but it is one of "redirection" of the reader to begin the quest for understanding all over again. A better term for it might be "anaphora", although I've never seen the term "anaphora" used for this sort of a "great leap backward."
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

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Re: stylistic device : when the end leads to the beginning

Post by Barry Hofstetter » July 23rd, 2015, 12:14 pm

I'm fine with that, Carl. I don't think the terminology is used with all that much precision in biblical studies, but let's come up with another term. "Allusional inclusio?" :?
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε· πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε

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