An Investigation into the Figurative Expressions of Ancient Egyptian in Different Text Genres

Posted in: AIAR
Tags: AIAR, Albright Institute of America, ASOR, Berlin, Egypt, Noble Group Fellow, Shih-Wei Hsu
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By: Shih-Wei Hsu, Free University, Berlin
2012-2013 Noble Group Fellow
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research

Shih-Wei Hsu

Shih-Wei Hsu

During my award period, I continued to work on my dissertation thesis, which deals with figurative expressions in Ancient Egyptian texts, especially royal inscriptions. The dissertation consists of three parts: the first part is an introduction to the study of figurative language, which defines figurative language and differentiates between simile and metaphor. The second part focuses on an overview of the usage, function and purpose of figurative language in different text genres. Royal inscriptions are one of these text types which use figurative language extensively. Finally, the third part of my dissertation is research on the figurative language of the royal inscriptions.

To date, only a few studies have examined figurative expressions of Ancient Egyptian and their use as a rhetorical stylistic device. Figurative expression is a group of words that includes comparisons, similes or metaphors. These expressions refer to similarities of shape, color, feature or function. Ancient Egyptian figurative expressions usually consist of only one word, which can be either a noun or a verb, and occasionally an adjective. Figurative expressions are not uniformly represented in all text genres. It always depends on their usages and functions.

Royal inscriptions are texts in which a king is involved. They provide the chronological framework for writing history, and present an officially recorded royal image for posterity. The king is mostly in medias res (in the middle of things). The texts depict the king’s deeds, such as activities on the battlefield, dedications, offerings to a god, and self-praise. From the Old Kingdom (2707–2216 b.c.) to the New Kingdom (1550–1070 b.c.), we can differentiate between various types of royal inscriptions, e.g., royal labels (Königsvermerke), royal annals, decrees, king’s novels (Königsnovelle) and royal self-praise. Among these genres of royal inscriptions, figurative language can mostly be seen in the king’s novels, especially in the king’s novels of the Ramessid Period (1292–1077 b.c.). In this period, usage of figurative language reaches its zenith. Certainly, the use of figurative language did not appear suddenly but has rather developed together with royal inscriptions.

My dissertation offers the first systematic study of figurative language and discusses how it is used for describing the king and issues related to him. Depending on different usage, function and purpose, the king is described in terms which are taken from different categories of figurative expression, such as from the natural, animal or divine worlds. Furthermore, figurative expressions are also used to describe the king’s enemies and royal building-projects. Therefore, a catalogue of all figurative expressions is necessary for pointing out references and examples. Through this research we can understand how the ancient Egyptian king demonstrates his kingship and ideology to his people and enemies.

During my time at the Albright Institute as a Noble Group Fellow, I completed the last three chapters of my dissertation and reached the end phase. In addition, I finished two articles and submitted them to two different journals. I also revised proofs of two articles: one which has already been published in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. 98 (2012), which is a summary of my Magister thesis at the University of Heidelberg – “The Development of Ancient Egyptian Royal Inscriptions, ” and the other which will be published in the Journal of Egyptian History, vol. 6.1 (forthcoming, July 2013), includes part of my dissertation and is entitled “Figurative Expressions Referring to Animals in Royal Inscriptions of the Eighteenth Dynasty.”



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1 Comments for : An Investigation into the Figurative Expressions of Ancient Egyptian in Different Text Genres
    • ashad hossain
    • January 11, 2014

    Therefore, a catalogue of all figurative expressions is necessary for pointing out references and examples.

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