Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Ancient Egyptian LiteratureTheory and Practice$

Roland Enmarch and Verena M. Lepper

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265420

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265420.001.0001

Show Summary Details

Ancient Egyptian Literature

Ancient Egyptian Literature

Genre and Style

Chapter:
(p.211) 11 Ancient Egyptian Literature
Source:
Ancient Egyptian Literature
Author(s):

Verena M. Lepper

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197265420.003.0011

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the genre and style of Ancient Egyptian literature. Through the application of lexicostatistics, it analyses a total of fifty texts. Having examined the vocabulary size of Middle Egyptian narratives, Late Egyptian narratives, speeches, and dialogues, the texts under investigation are grouped into genres such as ‘religious texts’, ‘artful prose’, ‘poetry’, ‘teachings’, and so on. On the basis of texts existing in several copies, it becomes apparent that a text maintains a constant vocabulary richness independent of its length. Each copy therefore facilitates the determination of the genre of a text. Furthermore, the language of a text (Middle or Late Egyptian) proves not to be decisive for the vocabulary richness of a text, but rather it is genre that is indicative. The chapter also investigates the question of the practical function of texts, which can best be detected during experimental reading.

Keywords:   lexicostatistics, genre, style, performance, practical function, vocabulary, Egyptian literature

An analysis of genre using lexicostatistical tools

THE MATHEMATICAL FOUNDATIONS FOR THE METHODS OF LEXICOSTATISTICS in the discipline of linguistics were established by the linguists Herdan and Guirand1 in the 1950s. Starting from this background, preliminary attempts to use lexicostatistics within Egyptology have been made for several texts. After some general discussion,2 the most extensive work in this area has been undertaken by Hintze,3 who analysed the ‘statistische Struktur des Wortschatzes ägyptischer Literaturwerke’ from 1975 onwards. To date, several texts have been analysed using this method.4

The vocabulary size of a text (denoted by V) grows with its length (N), but at a smaller speed. The richness of vocabulary of a text, independent of its total length, finds its mathematical expression in the value S; roughly speaking, high S means that many common words are found in the text, low S indicates many (p.212) rare words. Next to V, N, and S is V1, the variable for the size of vocabulary that is attested only once in a text; accordingly, V2 is the variable for words attested twice in a text; f indicates the frequency of occurrence of words.5

Thanks to the generous support of the Wörterbuch Project of the Academies of Sciences in Berlin and Leipzig, I can now add some thirty new texts to the list of ten published so far.6 The results are striking indeed and should briefly be discussed here. The following textgroups of the Wörterbuch could be analysed: Middle Egyptian narratives (12), Late Egyptian narratives (9), as well as speeches and dialogues (10). The individual values for a particular text are given in the following tables.

Middle Egyptian narratives

Table 11.1. The Tales of Wonder (Papyrus Westcar).

N = 3,383

V1 = 228

D = 1.17257

V = 529

V2 = 117

f = 6.39509

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 8.97902

Table 11.2. P. Chassinat II.

N = 100

V1 = 15

D = 1.1

V = 60

V2 = 5

f = 1.66667

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 5.66666

Table 11.3. The Story of Neferpesedjet (P. UCL 32156A).

N = 39

V1 = 4

D = 1.3

V = 26

V2 = 3

f = 1.5

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 3.20256

Table 11.4. P. Lythgoe (P. MMA 09.180.535).

N = 93

V1 = 8

D = 1.16667

V = 57

V2 = 4

f = 1.63158

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 4.82091

(p.213)

Table 11.5. The Shipwrecked Sailor (P. Petersburg 1115).

N = 1,270

V1 = 99

D = 1.28571

V = 313

V2 = 72

f = 4.05751

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 7.77784

Table 11.6. The Story of Sinuhe. MK text witnesses: Papyrus Berlin P 3022 and Fragments P. Amherst m–q (B).

N = 3,194

V1 = 254

D = 1.45131

V = 828

V2 = 241

f = 3.85749

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 4.2576

Table 11.7. The Story of Sinuhe. MK text witnesses: Papyrus Buenos Aires (BA).

N = 80

V1 = 12

D = 1.13158

V = 49

V2 = 5

f = 1.63265

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 5.60217

Table 11.8. The Story of Sinuhe. MK text witnesses: Papyrus Harageh 1 from the Fayum (H).

N = 37

V1 = 8

D = 1.3

V = 20

V2 = 6

f = 1.85

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 9.04194

Table 11.9. The Story of Sinuhe. MK text witnesses: Papyrus Ramesseum (Berlin P 10499 from Thebes-West (R)).

N = 1,236

V1 = 147

D = 1.21014

V = 449

V2 = 87

f = 2.75278

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 4.38788

Table 11.10. The Story of Sinuhe. NK text witnesses (Theban-Ramesside text): Ostracon Ashmolean Museum 1945.40 from Deir el-Medina (AOS).

N = 3,031

V1 = 225

D = 1.5

V = 759

V2 = 225

f = 3.99341

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 4.52898

Table 11.11. The Story of Hay (P. Kahun LV.1 = P. London UC 32157).

N = 156

V1 = 27

D = 1.08696

V = 85

V2 = 8

f = 1.83529

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 5.99149

(p.214)

Table 11.12. The Story of Horus and Seth (Middle Kingdom): (P. Kahun VI.12 = P. London UC 32158+32150A + 32148B).

N = 227

V1 = 26

D = 1.28788

V = 90

V2 = 19

f = 2.52222

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 8.19262

Table 11.13. Middle Egyptian narratives, texts arranged according to the size of N.

Text

N

S

The Story of Sinuhe H

37

9.04194

The Story of Neferpesedjet

39

3.20256

The Story of Sinuhe BA

80

5.60217

P. Lythgoe

93

4.82091

P. Chassinat II

100

5.66666

The Story of Hay

156

5.99149

Story of Horus and Seth (MK)

227

8.19262

The Story of Sinuhe R

1,236

4.38788

The Shipwrecked Sailor

1,270

7.77784

The Story of Sinuhe AOS

3,031

4.52898

The Story of Sinuhe B

3,194

4.25760

P. Westcar

3,383

8.97902

Table 11.14. Middle Egyptian narratives, texts arranged according to the size of S.

Text

N

S

The Story of Neferpesedjet

39

3.20256

The Story of Sinuhe B

3,194

4.25760

The Story of Sinuhe R

1,236

4.38788

The Story of Sinuhe AOS

3,031

4.52898

P. Lythgoe

93

4.82091

The Story of Sinuhe BA

80

5.60217

P. Chassinat II

100

5.66666

The Story of Hay

156

5.99149

The Shipwrecked Sailor

1,270

7.77784

Story of Horus and Seth (MK)

227

8.19262

P. Westcar

3,383

8.97902

The Story of Sinuhe H

37

9.04194

(p.215) Late Egyptian narratives

Table 11.15. Khonsemhab and the Spirit.

N = 734

V1 = 47

D = 1.37383

V = 216

V2 = 41

f = 3.39815

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 7.25657

Table 11.16. The Tale of the Two Brothers (P. BM 10183 = P. D’Orbiney).

N = 4,392

V1 = 419

D = 1.31518

V = 482

V2 = 324

f = 9.11203

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 11.76490

Table 11.17. The Conflict of Horus and Seth (P. Chester Beatty I).

N = 4,821

V1 = 335

D = 1.39572

V = 558

V2 = 296

f = 8.63978

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 10.43310

Table 11.18. The Gods and the Sea (P. BN 202 + P. Amherst 9).

N = 754

V1 = 44

D = 1.36275

V = 222

V2 = 37

f = 3.39640

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 7.40597

Table 11.19. The Journey of Wenamun (P. Moscow 120).

N = 3,073

V1 = 187

D = 1.41667

V = 412

V2 = 170

f = 7.45874

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 10.89944

Table 11.20. Story of a King and a Goddess (P. Berlin 3020 + P. Wien 36).

N = 299

V1 = 17

D = 1.44444

V = 97

V2 = 16

f = 3.08247

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 9.47297

Table 11.21. Truth and Falsehood (P. Chester Beatty II).

N = 1,231

V1 = 132

D = 1.21351

V = 226

V2 = 79

f = 5.44690

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 12.06588

(p.216)

Table 11.22 P. Harris 500 = P. BM EA 10060.

N = 2,210

V1 = 184

D = 1.45833

V = 364

V2 = 176

f = 6.07143

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 9.81287

Table 11.23. P. Sallier I = P. BM EA 10185.

N = 583

V1 = 36

D = 1.44737

V = 164

V2 = 34

f = 3.55488

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 8.72841

Table 11.24. Late Egyptian narratives, texts arranged according to the size of N.

Text

N

S

Story of a King and a Goddess

299

9.47297

P. Sallier I

583

8.72841

Khonsemhab and the Spirit

734

7.25657

The Gods and the Sea

754

7.40597

Truth and Falsehood

1,231

12.06588

P. Harris 500

2,210

9.81287

The Journey of Wenamun

3,073

10.89944

The Tale of the Two Brothers

4,392

11.76490

The Conflict of Horus and Seth

4,821

10.43310

Table 11.25. Late Egyptian narratives, texts arranged according to the size of S.

Text

N

S

Khonsemhab and the Spirit

734

7.25657

The Gods and the Sea

754

7.40597

P. Sallier I

583

8.72841

Story of a King and a Goddess

299

9.47297

P. Harris 500

2,210

9.81287

The Conflict of Horus and Seth

4,821

10.43310

The Journey of Wenamun

3,073

10.89944

The Tale of the Two Brothers

4,392

11.76490

Truth and Falsehood

1,231

12.06588

(p.217) Speeches and dialogues

Table 11.26. The Eloquent Peasant, P. Berlin P 3023 + P. Amherst I (B1).

N = 3,148

V1 = 207

D = 1.5

V = 715

V2 = 207

f = 4.40280

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 5.17367

Table 11.27. The Eloquent Peasant, P. Berlin P 3025 + P. Amherst II (B2).

N = 1,176

V1 = 86

D = 1.45555

V = 377

V2 = 82

f = 3.11936

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 4.85176

Table 11.28. The Eloquent Peasant, P. Ramesseum A = P. Berlin P 10499 (R).

N = 1,449

V1 = 102

D = 1.26119

V = 406

V2 = 70

f = 3.56897

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 6.06259

Table 11.29. The Dialogue of Ipuwer (P. Leiden I 344 rto).

N = 3,423

V1 = 185

D = 1.49462

V = 909

V2 = 184

f = 3.76568

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 3.88171

Table 11.30. The Dialogue of a Man with his Ba (P. Berlin 3024 + P. Amherst 3).

N = 1,230

V1 = 94

D = 1.30342

V = 368

V2 = 71

f = 3.34239

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 5.81378

Table 11.31. The Laments of Khakheperreseneb (BM EA 5645).

N = 543

V1 = 40

D = 1.25472

V = 225

V2 = 27

f = 2.41333

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 4.97209

Table 11.32. The Prophecy of Neferti (P. Petersburg 1116 B).

N = 1,106

V1 = 80

D = 1.32474

V = 367

V2 = 63

f = 3.01362

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 5.07833

(p.218)

Table 11.33. The Speech of Sasobek (P. Ramesseum I = P. BM 10754).

N = 1,119

V1 = 97

D = 1.14238

V = 375

V2 = 43

f = 2.984

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 5.50533

Table 11.34. The Pleasures of Fishing and Fowling (P. Moscow, no number).

N = 975

V1 = 90

D = 1.21429

V = 389

V2 = 54

f = 2.50643

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 4.11528

Table 11.35. The Sporting King (P. Moscow, no number).

N = 669

V1 = 38

D = 1.38372

V = 328

V2 = 33

f = 2.03963

Ancient Egyptian LiteratureGenre and Style

S = 2.53590

Table 11.36. Speeches and dialogues, texts arranged according to the size of N.

Text

N

S

The Laments of Khakheperreseneb

543

4.97209

The Sporting King

669

2.53590

The Pleasures of Fishing and Fowling

975

4.11528

The Prophecy of Neferti

1,106

5.07833

The Speech of Sasobek

1,119

5.50533

The Eloquent Peasant B2

1,176

4.85176

The Dialogue of a Man with his Ba

1,230

5.81378

The Eloquent Peasant R

1,449

6.06259

The Eloquent Peasant B1

3,148

5.17367

The Dialogue of Ipuwer

3,423

3.88171

Table 11.37. Speeches and dialogues, texts arranged according to the size of S.

Text

N

S

The Sporting King

669

2.53590

The Dialogue of Ipuwer

3,423

3.88171

The Pleasures of Fishing and Fowling

975

4.11528

The Eloquent Peasant B2

1,176

4.85176

The Laments of Khakheperreseneb

543

4.97209

The Prophecy of Neferti

1,106

5.07833

The Eloquent Peasant B1

3,148

5.17367

The Speech of Sasobek

1,119

5.50533

The Dialogue of a Man with his Ba

1,230

5.81378

The Eloquent Peasant R

1,449

6.06259

(p.219) Summary

Table 11.38. All texts, arranged according to the size of N.

Text

N

S

The Story of Sinuhe H

37

9.04194

The Story of Neferpesedjet

39

3.20256

The Story of Sinuhe BA

80

5.60217

P. Lythgoe

93

4.82091

P. Chassinat II

100

5.66666

The Story of Hay

156

5.99149

Story of Horus and Seth (MK)

227

8.19262

Kagemni (P. Prisse)

294

3.772

Story of a King and a Goddess

299

9.47297

Amenemhet I

498

4.176

The Laments of Khakheperreseneb

543

4.97209

P. Sallier I

583

8.72841

Amenemhet (P. Millingen)

584

4.153

The Sporting King

669

2.53590

Amenemhet (P. Sallier II)

702

4.252

Khonsemhab and the Spirit

734

7.25657

The Gods and the Sea

754

7.40597

The Pleasures of Fishing and Fowling

975

4.11528

The Prophecy of Neferti

1,106

5.07833

The Speech of Sasobek

1,119

5.50533

The Eloquent Peasant B2

1,176

4.85176

The Dialogue of a Man with his Ba

1,230

5.81378

Truth and Falsehood

1,231

12.06588

The Story of Sinuhe R

1,236

4.38788

The Shipwrecked Sailor

1,270

7.77784

The Eloquent Peasant R

1,449

6.06259

Merikare

1,857

4.964

P. Harris 500

2,210

9.81287

The Story of Sinuhe AOS

3,031

4.52898

The Journey of Wenamun

3,073

10.89944

The Eloquent Peasant B1

3,148

5.17367

The Story of Sinuhe B

3,194

4.25760

P. Westcar

3,383

8.97902

The Dialogue of Ipuwer

3,423

3.88171

Piye

3,852

6.038

Book of the Earth

3,855

18.498

The Tale of the Two Brothers

4,392

11.76490

The Conflict of Horus and Seth

4,821

10.43310

Book of the Gates

7,466

12.074

Amduat

8,523

12.375

Book of the Caverns

11,749

16.287

(p.220)

Table 11.39. All texts, arranged according to the size of S.

Text

N

S

The Sporting King

669

2.53590

The Story of Neferpesedjet

39

3.20256

Kagemni (P. Prisse)

294

3.772

The Dialogue of Ipuwer

3,423

3.88171

The Pleasures of Fishing and Fowling

975

4.11528

Amenemhet (P. Millingen)

584

4.153

Amenemhet I

498

4.176

Amenemhet (P. Sallier II)

702

4.252

The Story of Sinuhe B

3,194

4.25760

The Story of Sinuhe R

1,236

4.38788

The Story of Sinuhe AOS

3,031

4.52898

P. Lythgoe

93

4.82091

The Eloquent Peasant B2

1,176

4.85176

Merikare

1,857

4.964

The Laments of Khakheperreseneb

543

4.97209

The Prophecy of Neferti

1,106

5.07833

The Eloquent Peasant B1

3,148

5.17367

The Speech of Sasobek

1,119

5.50533

The Story of Sinuhe BA

80

5.60217

P. Chassinat II

100

5.66666

The Dialogue of a Man with his Ba

1,230

5.81378

The Story of Hay

156

5.99149

Piye

3,852

6.038

The Eloquent Peasant R

1,449

6.06259

Khonsemhab and the Spirit

734

7.25657

The Gods and the Sea

754

7.40597

The Shipwrecked Sailor

1,270

7.77784

Story of Horus and Seth (MK)

227

8.19262

P. Sallier I

583

8.72841

P. Westcar

3,383

8.97902

The Story of Sinuhe H

37

9.04194

Story of a King and a Goddess

299

9.47297

P. Harris 500

2,210

9.81287

The Conflict of Horus and Seth

4,821

10.43310

The Journey of Wenamun

3,073

10.89944

The Tale of the Two Brothers

4,392

11.76490

Truth and Falsehood

1,231

12.06588

Book of the Gates

7,466

12.074

Amduat

8,523

12.375

Book of the Caverns

11,749

16.287

Book of the Earth

3,855

18.498

(p.221) Discussion

Applying lexicostatistical approaches now to these new texts, the grouping of texts into genres is further possible. Genres such as ‘religious texts’, ‘artful prose’, ‘poetry’, or ‘teachings’ and so on may be detected.7

For texts preserved in multiple copies, the individual, mostly fragmentary manuscripts present consistent S values (vocabulary richness). This is the case, for example, with the copies of Sinuhe or the Teaching of Amenemhat. This demonstrates that text fragments show highly similar S values compared to their longer text copies and that the genre of a text can therefore be determined by this method using even small text fragments.8

The tables provided demonstrate clearly that the Book of the Gates, the Amduat, the Book of the Caverns, and the Book of the Earth show the highest values of S and thus constitute a discrete group of texts, and indeed a genre of texts, the ‘religious texts’.

Middle Egyptian and Late Egyptian narratives form their own group of the ‘artful prose’ genre;9 starting with Khonsemhab and the Spirit and ending with Truth and Falsehood. This genre comprises some thirteen texts. There are two exceptions, one being the short fragment H of Sinuhe, one being the Shipwrecked Sailor. Both texts, the fragment and the long narrative, contain elements of ‘artful prose’ next to poetic features, and the numbers support this accordingly.

The genre ‘poetry’, however, can here be divided into ‘speeches’ and ‘narration’. Thought couplets with parallelisms, rather than the lingua provorsa,10 mark these texts.

Following the S values, some twelve manuscripts belong to the poetic speeches, starting with the Eloquent Peasant B2, including the Eloquent Peasant B1, and ending with the Eloquent Peasant R. Only one exception can be found: Merikare is considered a teaching and not a speech. However, the long speech passages in the text probably give rise to this grouping.

The next group of twelve texts belong to the genre of ‘narration’ with the exception of the Teaching of Amenemhat, and the Dialogue of Ipuwer. It becomes clear that the genre of ‘teaching’ cannot be found mirrored in the (p.222) S numbers of the texts. A detailed analysis of further teachings would give additional insights into the discussion of this genre.

We find texts of high S values written in Middle Egyptian (Book of the Gates etc.) and in Late Egyptian (Tale of the Two Brothers etc.). Therefore it can be stated that the language of a text (Middle or Late Egyptian) does not determine the vocabulary richness, but the genre. After this discussion of genre, the style of a text must also be evaluated.

An analysis of style using the performance of a text

To what practical end was, for example, the text of Papyrus Westcar, as we know it today, created? Does the style of a text give indications for such usage? Was it read quietly, was it recited, or was it read aloud before an audience? All of these possibilities are plausible. We have indications that texts were in fact read aloud in Ancient Egypt, and even in auditoriums.11 The best evidence for this is the performative contexts portrayed in Neferti, The Eloquent Peasant, and also P. Westcar itself.

As in Neferti, there appears in P. Westcar a bored pharaoh—King Snofru — who requires entertainment, in this case in the form of a physical play (with naked oarswomen and miracle workers). In P. Westcar, also another layer comes to the fore. The stories that the princes tell and that entertain the king are integrated into a larger narrative frame. In the introduction to the whole text (the complete version of which has unfortunately been lost), we expect Cheops’s justification for asking his sons to tell him stories; the various stories are told or presented by the princes at court, in front of Cheops himself and the other sons. Within each individual story, too, we find recitations by the various magicians using spells.

Even though this narrative frame of a king who listens to performances by princes, magicians, and wise men is fictional, it is still historically plausible. That a magician would recite his liturgical texts with special gestures before an audience is familiar to us from depictions and descriptions of liturgies. Was this practice also common or possible for poetry, or even for artful prose?

If the entire P. Westcar text was intended for oral performance, then its form and style should reflect this. The general assessment or evaluation of the text and its style changes accordingly. Stylistic devices, rhythm, and wordplays, (p.223) and with them the direct effect on the listeners, would be emphasised in the conception of such a text, to a higher degree than the content of the plot itself.

The many phonetic stylistic devices in P. Westcar do in fact catch the listener’s ear. The stylistic analysis12 of the text shows clearly that phonetic effect must have been a particular goal of its design. Inspired by these various observations, the idea of conducting an experiment in performance was born: the P. Westcar text would be read out aloud in the hopes of coming closer to understanding its original, practical function.

The experiment of the performance of P. Westcar took place in the Egyptian Museum of the University of Bonn under my direction. Nine actors read the text out loud (in German translation) in front of an audience, and the event was sound-recorded. The experiment aimed at determining the effect of the text on its listeners. Thus we abstained from a fully fledged theatrical staging, and instead performed the text as a ‘Hörspiel’. All five stories of P. Westcar were presented. It is now published as a CD-ROM.13 A number of observations can be made regarding this performance. Of course, it is undeniable that every translation distorts the original impression and also the beauty of the original Egyptian text, as well as the authentic rhythm of the language. Nevertheless, the form of the translation (into German) that was chosen, as a literal word-by-word translation, does still allow the listener to gain a certain impression of the sentence structure and the narrative flow of the text. Moreover, several very evident moments of irony also come to light. Numerous allusions within the individual stories illuminate textual references, including more than one story of P. Westcar itself.14 The dynamic of the dialogue becomes especially clear here: introductions to speeches seem superfluous in certain particular places. At the same time, it is clear that the absence of such introductions should not be deemed a philologically faulty omission, but rather a part of the narrative dynamic of the text.15

This experiment in philology taught us that, in the setting of university instruction, a text can provide material for weeks and weeks of reading and philological analysis, while its performance — in a setting that reproduces the original Egyptian context — requires not more than thirty minutes. It is the listener, who has just half an hour to hear the piece, who begins to be aware of the many allusions and references within the text, which can at times seem somewhat forced to the mainly philological reader. Due to the brevity of the (p.224) performance, much remains in the memory. However, the Ancient Egyptian’s ear was probably much more attuned to listening to textual recitations of this length than we are today, since auditory concentration across several stories is unusual in our time and thus the form of this particular performance may seem unfamiliar to us.

Conclusions

Both the analysis of stylistic devices and the results of the performances in German illuminate the particular phonetic impressions of the text, even despite the lack of vowels in the original. The many phonetic games, parallels, frames, allusions, amphibolies, ironies, and little jokes, and so on, make it clear that the function of the text must have been primarily an oral one. When it comes to the humorous content as well as the dynamic of the dialogue and plot, the listener must judge for him or herself. Even the linguistic filtering through the translation into German only causes a minor interruption.

This is where the entertainment factor of the text becomes clear. The text has a rhetorical framework, the aim of which is to produce an interesting, lively, exciting, and entertaining experience for the listener. This means that, independently of the content-driven functions or ‘message’ of the text, its formal and practical use can also be ascertained.

As this was presumably the first attempt to let artful prose ‘speak’ in a performance, we can establish clear parallels to poetry, as well. For this reason, our performance of the text cannot be described as anachronistic. Although we cannot truly reconstruct the historical context of a performance, just as we cannot know how medieval music (the ‘Minnesang’) was staged, we can still make significant progress towards reproducing the original impact of the text with such an experiment.16

Nonetheless, the difference between a performance (an oral interpretation) and a written text (a reading interpretation) should not be underestimated. The effect is clearly different in the two cases, not least of all because an oral interpretation shapes the emotional dimension of the text in an idiosyncratic and expressive manner.

The ‘implied reader’ of such a text, as John Baines would call him,17 must have belonged to the elite or sub-elite of Egyptian society at the time. Yet the (p.225) possibility of reading the text out loud in front of an illiterate audience could have expanded the number of people in the auditorium. In other words, the oral performance of a text can reach a larger circle of listeners than the strictly written version of a text.

Of course, it should be pointed out that the performance using multiple voices that we chose could hardly have matched the original circumstances. It is much more likely that the text was recited or read aloud by a single person, on the model of the lector priest who imitated the various other roles. For a modern audience in a lay context, however, such a performance did not seem appropriate.

Theoretical framework and detailed philology are important for any understanding of texts. However, they were not written for the sake of theory but for a concrete audience. ‘In short, as a reader one should reconstruct the act of reading.’18 (p.226)

Notes:

(1) G. Herdan, ‘The Relation Between the Dictionary Distribution and the Occurrence Distribution of Word Length and Its Importance for the Study of Quantitative Linguistics’, Biometrica 45 (1958), 222–8; id., Quantitative Linguistics (London, 1964); id., Les Caractères statistiques du vocabulaire (Paris, 1954); id., Problèmes et méthodes de la statistique linguistique (Dordrecht, 1960).

(2) W. Westendorf, in H. Grapow, Untersuchungen zur ägyptischen Stilistik, I: Der stilistische Aufbau der Geschichte des Sinuhe (Berlin, 1952), 122 ff.; W. Barta, Das Gespräch eines Mannes mit seinem Ba (MÄS 18; Berlin, 1969), 122–5; W. Schenkel, ‘Ist der Wortschatz des “Lebensmüden” größer als der des “Sinuhe?”’, GM 5 (1973), 21–4.

(3) F. Hintze, ‘Die statistische Struktur des Wortschatzes ägyptischer Literaturwerke I’, ZÄS 102 (1975), 100–22; also id., ‘Die statistische Struktur des Wortschatzes ägyptischer Literaturwerke, Fortsetzung’, ZÄS 103 (1976), 22–9.

(4) For the latest list, see V. M. Lepper, ‘Language and Text’, LingAeg 14 (2006), 375–88. In the summary of this article in Tables 11.38 and 11.39 ten of these texts have been included for comparison.

(5) For the mathematical formulae and methods used, see V. M. Lepper, Untersuchungen zu pWestcar: Eine philologische und literaturwissenschaftliche (Neu-) Analyse (ÄA 70; Wiesbaden, 2008), 246–71; id., ‘New Readings of an Old Text’, in J.-C. Goyon and C. Cardin, Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists, Grenoble, 6–12 septembre 2004 (OLA 150; Leuven, 2007), 1125–36; id., LingAeg 14, 375–88.

(6) Warmest thanks for their ongoing support go to Stephan J. Seidlmayer, Berlin/Cairo and Peter Dils, Leipzig.

(7) See in Lepper, Untersuchungen, 259–61. The texts discussed here are also included in Tables 11.38 and 11.39 for comparison.

(8) See for this thesis: Lepper, LingAeg 14, 375–88, esp. 385.

(9) For artful prose in opposition to poetry, see Lepper, Untersuchungen, 301–3.

(10) Lingua provorsa is the language used for artful prose. It is dominated by the quick progress of the plot, using elements like ˁḥˁ.n etc.

(11) See H. Fischer, Varia Nova: Egyptian Studies, III (New York, 1996), pl. 14b.

(12) See Lepper, Untersuchungen, 152–222.

(13) See ibid., 311–13, and the attached CD-ROM.

(14) See Lepper, Untersuchungen, 230–44.

(15) Cf. column 9, line 5 of the text.

(16) Compare R. B. Parkinson, Poetry and Culture in Middle Kingdom Egypt: A Dark Side to Perfection (London, 2002), 78–81.

(17) J. Baines, ‘Interpreting the Story of the Shipwrecked Sailor’, JEA 76 (1990), 55–72, esp. 57 n. 9.

(18) B. Parkinson, ‘Texts or Poems? Some Recent Perspectives’ (unpublished manuscript), 11; see R. B. Parkinson, ‘Textes ou poèmes? Quelques perspectives nouvelles sur les textes littéraires du Moyen Empire’, EAO 31 (2003), 52.