Song of Exile: The Enduring Mystery of Psalm 137
(Conferences / Seminars / Lectures)
David Stowe, Interim Chair and Professor, Department of English, MSU
Oft-referenced and frequently set to music, Psalm 137 (which begins "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion")has become something of a cultural touchstone for music and religion across the Atlantic world. This psalm set to song has been a top single more than once in the twentieth century. Stowe locates Psalm 137's use in the American Revolution and the Civil Rights Movement, and internationally by anti-colonial Jamaican Rastafari and immigrants from Ireland, Korea, and Cuba. Studying musical references ranging from the Melodians' Rivers of Babylon to the score of the Kazakh film Tulpan, Stowe also explores the presence and absence in modern culture of the often-ignored final words: "Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones." Based on numerous interviews with musicians, theologians, and writers, Stowe reconstructs the rich and varied history of this widely used, yet mysterious, Hebrew text.
Co-sponsored by the Department of English, Department of Religious Studies, and James Madison College.