The Epic of Gilgamesh

This epic of many firsts is fundamental to the narrative traditions of the West. From its oral early Sumerian versions about four thousand years ago, through its written accounts in Babylonian, this story of King Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu establishes many of the characteristics of the epic genre. The quest for immortality, the battles with monsters, the first version of the biblical flood, the great male friendship, powerful gods, and much more, all originate here. As does the first depiction of the clash of nature and civilization, raising the issues of what is lost and gained in the transition from hunter- gatherer to city dweller. Above all, however, questions of what it means to be mortal and human inform this text, and will be investigated in our reading of this engaging and seminal great work of narrative poetry. Texts recommended: Gilgamesh, tr. Stephen Mitchell, Atria paperback (2004), Simon & Schuster. This translation is very free but readable. The Epic of Gilgamesh, tr. Andrew George, Penguin Classics (2000) is a more scholarly, accurate, but slightly less readable version.

Instructor: Herb Arnold

Five Mondays, March 28, April 4, 11 & 18, 25; 4:30-6pm
Butterfield Room -$110
Herb Arnold
HERBERT A. ARNOLD is professor of German Studies and Letters, Emeritus. After more than forty years of teaching at Wesleyan, including the MAT and GLSP programs, he is revisiting some of his early research interests, including the European Baroque era, and continuing work on a biographical-historical investigation of Central European history in the 20th century. Most of his work in the past has centered on the intersection between history and literature in a pan-European context. His publications range in time and subject matter from late 15th century manuscripts to contemporary popular culture.