“The anatomy of all of the soul” was John calvin’s description of the Psalms—the 150 poems that give us the words to express sorrow and joy, to praise God, and to give thanks when despair is relieved. The Psalms achieve their passionate effects using seemingly conventional language, woven in subtle semantic patterns. BR’s spotlight on the psalms presents “The Power of the Psalms In Our Time” and Robert Alter’s “Psalms—Beauty Heightened Through Poetic Structure,” a detailed examination of four psalms. Alter’s penetrating analysis of the ways in which the structure of poetry influences its emotional impact is an adaptation of a chapter form his recent book, The Art of Biblical Poetry, which is reviewed by Baruch Halpern in Bible Books.
Currently professor of Hebrew and comparative literature and chairman of his department at the University of California at Berkeley, Alter has published abudantly and broadly with articles ranging from “Jewish Dreams and Nightmares,” and “The Demons of History in Dicknes’ Tale” to numerous books, including The Art of Biblical Narrative, the companion volume to his most recent work reviewed and excerpted here.