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Pesher: A Cognitive Model of the Genre

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Earlier models of the genre of the pesharim have tended either to subsume pesher into the genre of midrash, on the one hand, or to doubt its coherence as a genre due to a perceived lack of common features shared among all the member texts, on the other. Cognitive genre theory offers a way forward by challenging previous conceptions of the way genre categories are formed. Rather than fixed sets of texts belonging equally to a genre, cognitive theory proposes that genres are radial categories extending outward from a “prototypical” center toward a fuzzy boundary, with texts participating in the genre to varying degrees. A cognitive model of the pesher genre provides a flexible enough construction of the genre to account for the variation among the constituent texts, yet still firmly distinguishes the genre from other forms of Early Jewish literature through the concept of the idealized cognitive model (ICM) of reality that animates the genre.

Affiliations: 1: Hendrix College, Email:


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