Parallelism in verbal art and performance : an introduction
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Parallelism has been considered a fundamental feature of artistic expression. Robert Lowth (1753:180) coined the term parallelismus membrorum (“parallelism of members”) to describe a variety of different types of equivalence or resemblance that he observed between verses in Biblical Hebrew. Lowth’s study is in many respects the foundation of research on parallelism,2 although his terminology only began to spread across the nineteenth century. The concept expanded considerably during the twentieth century, especially through the far-reaching influences of Roman Jakobson. From early in his career, Jakobson looked at parallelism as an abstract text-structuring principle of “le rapprochement de deux unités” (Jakobson 1977 : 25) (“the bringing together of two units;” translations following a citation are by the present authors), later referred to in English as “recurrent returns” (1981 :98). Jakobson saw parallelism not only at the level of words, syntax, or meanings of verses as discussed by Lowth, but also at the level of sounds and rhythms within and across verses as well as in larger, complex structures. The breadth of Jakobson’s perspective allowed textual parallelism to connect fluidly with parallelism in music and other forms of expression. His views are the foundation for advancing the concept from language to a general semiotic phenomenon—a phenomenon observable within and across all sorts of media. Parallelism has become a central term and concept on discussions of literature, poetics, and beyond, and yet the phenomenon is so basic, so pervasive, that it is challenging to pin down.--Page 203.
Oral Tradition, 31/2 (2017): 203-232.
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