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 Unpublished PhD thesis, Aarhus University (February 2020). View the committee’s assessment of the thesis here.
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
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
OBS! I wrote this essay before I became aware of Karen Sonik’s 2009 article, “Gender Matters in Enuma Elish” (link), which discusses some of the same issues. I encourage interested readers to check out Sonik’s article as well.
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: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvh9w0j9.11
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
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
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.
Why has Gilgamesh achieved a much more solid place in the modern canon than any other work of ancient Near Eastern literature? The essay proposes that the epic’s modern canonicity is specifically due to the fact that it can be read as both subversive and foundational.
“Gilgamesh: A subversive foundation,” in Antike Kanonisierungsprozesse und Identitätsbildung in Zeiten des Umbruchs, edited by Marcel Friesen and Christoph Leonard Hesse, Wissenschaftliche Schriften der WWU Münster 28 (2019, Münster: Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität), pp. 27–41. Link.
Through a study of Akkadian words for non-binary gender, such as assinnu and kurgarrû, the essay argues that we cannot achieve any secure knowledge about the biological sex of ancient individuals. Instead, our most viable option is to study the cultural dynamics that determined how gender was depicted.
“‘Only in dress?’ Methodological concerns regarding non-binary gender,” in Gender and Methodology in the Ancient Near East, edited by Stephanie Lynn Budin, Megan Cifarelli, Agnés Garcia-Ventura, and Adelina Millet Albà, Barcino Monographica Orientalia 10 (2018, Barcelona: Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona), pp. 41–53. Link.
A text known as the “Uruk List of Kings and Sages” uses the names of ancient authors to present a tiny synoptic overview of cuneiform culture. In this otherwise fully anonymous culture, authors became important during times of crisis, since they could represent, organize, and condense an imperilled tradition.
“The role of authors in the ‘Uruk List of Kings and Sages’: Canonization and cultural contact,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 77, no. 2 (October 2018), pp. 219–34. Link. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/699166