Journal Article

An Amateur’s Professional Devotion: Elizabeth Smith’s Translation of the <i>Book of Job</i>

Daniel DeWispelare

in Literature and Theology

Volume 25, issue 2, pages 141-156
Published in print June 2011 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online April 2011 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/frr005
An Amateur’s Professional Devotion: Elizabeth Smith’s Translation of the Book of Job

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This essay focuses on an eccentric English translation of the Book of Job done in the late 18th century by amateur linguist and poet Elizabeth Smith. It describes how Smith learned to translate Hebrew from a peculiar grammar by polemical theologian John Parkhurst, and assesses how this grammar’s ideology strongly mediated her theological and literary interventions. This essay discusses how one woman’s writing and devotional practices intersected with newly accessible grammatical materials, Protestant theology and English poetic form. Finally, it explains how the paratexts affixed to the published translation restrained the social and theological implications of Smith's work. More broadly, this article is interested in contributing to recent work on late 18th century philosophy of language by showing how anglophone grammatical and pedagogical materials produced new forms of translation and perhaps even a new, more textual understanding of language. By zeroing in on a scriptural translation, it also suggests how this emergent genre of grammatical and pedagogical works allowed those who previously lacked access to ‘learned languages' to intervene in literary and theological discussions from which they had been circumscribed.

Journal Article.  7405 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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