PhD research: Luke McDermott

The Poetics of Foresight: Assessing the Communicative Function of Figurative Imagery in Prophecy and Prediction Texts from the Neo-Assyrian Period of Ancient Mesopotamian Textual Culture.

The Neo-Assyrian Empire was the dominant cultural and political force in the Eastern Mediterranean during the period of intercultural development that saw the composition of the Hebrew Bible and emergence of Archaic Greek civilisation. Neo-Assyrian writing was suffused with a rich semiotics of thought and expression, which characterised a world where everything was ontologically connected, and images and concepts were articulated in terms of each other. The fundamental interweaving of analogical thinking into the patterns of expression and social structure justifies further research into the cognitive function of metaphor in Neo-Assyrian society and textuality. This project situates itself at the centre of a growing movement applying frameworks drawn from the field of Cognitive Linguistics to textual traditions from Antiquity.

The textual corpora of prophecy, divination, and human foreknowledge are the focus of this research. These texts of ‘hieratic forecast’ are replete with metaphorical techniques and expressions of similarity. Moreover, expression by comparison, and interpretation of omens, are both inherently exegetical exercises. The epistemology for omen interpretation was predominantly on the principle of association between observation and inferred outcome. This could be an orthographic or phonetic similarity, or an extra-verbal conceptual linkage.

This project compiles a quantitative index of the different structural and grammatical ways that conceptual association was expressed in the selected texts, e.g., A is B, or A is like B. It also marks the preponderance of selected comparanda, e.g., how often is expressed in terms of BCD, etc. It will then analyse these data and any emergent patterns by application of Cognitive Linguistics and Intertextual critical methodologies. This project sheds light on the technical and semantic expression of conceptual analogy in Neo-Assyrian hieratic forecast.

Supervisor: Professor Michael Clarke
Funding: Hardiman Research Scholarship (2023-2027)

Research area: Cross-cultural encounters