Dissertation season continues. Now work on the compositional art of the Sheiltot: Jason Phillip Rogoff "The Compositional Art of the She‘iltot of R. Aha - Creating a Babylonian Homiletic Midrash" (PhD, JTS, 2010).
From the abstract (hat-tip to, once again, Menachem Butler):
This dissertation identifies the compositional art of the She‘iltot of Aḥa of Shabḥa
– a collection of halakhic homilies dating from the eighth century connected to the weekly Sabbath and Festival Torah portions. Through a synoptic analysis of Babylonian Talmudic parallels the editorial methods and techniques of the redactor are categorized in order to reveal the format and goals of the work. Previous She‘iltot research has focused almost exclusively on the relationship of textual variants that appear in the She‘iltot that differ from our version of the Babylonian Talmud; but few have seen or allowed for the literary creativity of the redactor.
The body of the dissertation begins by identifying the four standard sections of the She‘iltot and defining the function of each. The dissertation then highlights the various emendations, omissions, and additions made by the redactor to the cited Babylonian Talmudic texts. By examining the various changes, a picture emerges of an active redactor who dramatically changes the meaning, substance, and purpose of quoted talmudic sections to fit them into the she‘ilta form and more significantly to teach specifics lessons which were part of his pedagogic agenda. The examination of these sources forces a reconsideration of the notion that the She‘iltot can be used indiscriminately as a source of textual variants for the Babylonian Talmud. While the
She‘iltot may preserve alternate readings in certain cases, many of the changes are intentional programmatic emendations of the redactor. The arrangement of the cited sources are analyzed uncovering the existence of a Babylonian homiletic midrash based on diverse citations from the Babylonian Talmud forged in a manner to create weekly lectures appealing to both scholars and educated laymen.