Return of the text

The article discusses a trope in cuneiform literature that I term the “self-referential climax,” in which stories end by describing their own composition in a final confluence of narrated time and the time of narration. This trope is crucial to the study of cuneiform literature because it affords us a glimpse of how ancient poets viewed their own poems. I focus on three case studies—Inana and Shukaletuda, The Cuthean Legend, and Gilgamesh—that all use the trope to set up an ambivalent contrast between the story’s medium and main character: in all three cases, form triumphs over content.

“The Return of the Text: On Self-Reference in Cuneiform Literature,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 75, no. 1 (Spring 2023): 93–107. Link.