In this 2,800-word review essay, I highlight certain features of Robert Alter's three-volume translation of and commentary on the Hebrew Bible -- most notably his attention to capturing the artful rhythmic cadences of the oral style (Marcel Jousse's terminology) in fluent contemporary English. I also relate Alter's project of attending to the oral style of the Hebrew Bible to the thought of the American Jesuit Renaissance specialist and cultural historian Walter J. Ong about the visual-aural contrast in thought and expression in Western cultural history. Ong borrowed the visual-aural contrast from the French philosopher Louis Lavelle. Ong amplified the visual-aural contrast by drawing on the work of Albert B. Lord and Eric A. Havelock. Ong's pioneering claim about how the visualist tendency was further accentuated by the Gutenberg printing press that emerged in Western culture in the mid-1450s was further amplified by the Canadian Renaissance specialist and cultural historian Marshall McLuhan.
Robert Alter's Translation of the Hebrew Bible and Walter J. Ong's Thought.
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