What is philology?

The article proposes a new definition of philology as a systematic attempt to undo crises of reading, resolving whatever difficulties prevent readers from accessing a given text, all the way from scrubbed signs to obscure ontologies. In short, philology is the product of an inability to read a given text combined with an unwillingness to turn away from it in incomprehension.

“What is philology? From crises of reading to comparative reflections.” The article is slated for publication with Poetics Today in December 2022; please do not cite or share it before then without my permission.

The two-act structure

The majority of Babylonian epics are organized according to the same narrative structure: the story is divided into two acts, where the second act mirrors and expands the first. The essay shows that this structure applies to Atra-hasis, Enuma Elish, Gilgamesh, Etana, and more, for a total of nine texts.

“The two-act structure: A narrative device in Akkadian epics,” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions, vol. 20, no. 2 (2020 [April 2021]), p. 190–224. Link. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/15692124-12341315

Thresholds in Gilgamesh

The essay explores the representation of time and space in Gilgamesh. The figure of the threshold is a key aspect of the epic, separating highly different, but internally homogeneous kinds of time and space—a structure that also affects its depiction of characters and textuality.

“The chronotope of the threshold in the Epic of Gilgamesh,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 141, no. 1 (April 2021), p. 185–200. Link. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7817/jameroriesoci.141.1.0185

The first authors

My PhD thesis on authorship in ancient Iraq presents two claims. First, I argue that ancient authors are better studied as cultural narratives than as empirical realities and present a set of tools which with to do so. Second, I argue that the earliest written sources relating to authorship appeared when the cultures of ancient Iraq found themselves in crisis: authorship served to map, manage, and represent an endangered cultural heritage.

“The first authors: Narratives of authorship in ancient Iraq.” Unpublished PhD thesis, Aarhus University (February 2020).

Birth of the author

Through a reading of Enheduana’s Exaltation—the earliest known depiction of authorship—the essay argues that the figure of the author is created by a number of individuals acting together, including the addressee, performer, and copyist of the text: their involvement is necessary for the author to become an author.

“The birth of the author: Co-creating authorship in Enheduana’s Exaltation,” Orbis Litterarum, vol. 75, no. 2 (February 2020), pp. 55–72. Link. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/oli.12250

Marduk’s penis

The essay approaches the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish from the perspective of queer theory. I first examine how the female body is depicted as a disquieting force that is impossible to subdue decisively; and then study how text builds up a male sphere of language and power, where men become invested in the company of other men.

“Marduk’s penis: Queering Enūma Eliš,” Chances and Problems of Cultural Anthropological Perspectives in Ancient Studies, special issue of Distant Worlds Journal, vol. 4 (February 2020), pp. 63–77. Link. DOI: https://doi.org/10.11588/dwj.2020.4.70450

Weapons and weaving

The chapter takes a fresh look at the two most important gender signifiers of cuneiform cultures: weapons and weaving instruments. I argue that these signifiers can be used to construct and reinforce masculinity and femininity, but also to transform, reverse, subvert, and complicate them.

“Weapons and weaving instruments as symbols of gender in the ancient Near East,” in Fashioned Selves: Dress and Identity in Antiquity, edited by Megan Cifarelli, (2019, Oxford: Oxbow Books), pp. 105–15. Link. DOI: http://10.2307/j.ctvh9w0j9

Enheduana at school

Why did Enheduana, the first known author, gain such outstanding cultural prominence during the Old Babylonian period? The essay connects the sudden importance of her authorship with the cultural crisis of the 1740’s BCE, and the following reinvention of Sumerian literature.

“Enheduana and the invention of authorship,” Authorship, vol. 8, no. 1 (July 2019), pp. 1–20. Link. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21825/aj.v8i1.11486

What was an author?

The essay proposes a new framework for the study of premodern authors. Historically, authors have most often been depicted as textual transmitters, not original creators, so a focus on the middle position of premodern authors will lead to a more nuanced, inclusive history of authorship.

“What is an author? Old answers to a new question”, Modern Language Quarterly, vol. 80, no. 2 (June 2019), pp. 113–139. Link. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-7368183

Assyrian authors

The essay is a presentation of all sources relating to authorship that date to the Neo-Assyrian period. I argue that authors are depicted in these as ancestors, professional scribes, and mechanisms of textual control, and then examines the historical circumstances that led to the rise of authorship in this period.

“A literary heritage: Authorship in the Neo-Assyrian period,” Kaskal, vol. 16 (2019), pp. 349–71.