The book includes a translation of the five poems attributed to Enheduana, the first known author, as well as an introduction and three essays that unpack her life and legacy. The translation is an innovative and fairly free rendering of her challenging hymns; a more literal translation can be found on the website I created to accompany the book, enheduana.org. The essays introduce the reader to the dramatic time in which Enheduana lived, the ancient reception and main themes of her poems, and the modern rediscovery of this unjustly forgotten figure.
Enheduana: The Complete Poems of the World’s First Author. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2023. Link.
The Exaltation of Inana is a complex poem, and scholars disagree on how its structure should be understood. But the text gains a previously unnoticed clarity of composition from its use of invocations—the rhetorically charged apostrophes to the goddess Inana. By following the patterns of repeated invocations, one finds in the text a neat subdivision into six sections, each with their unique form of address. The essay concludes by considering the poetic effects of these invocations.
“Enheduana’s Invocations: Form and Force,” in Women and Religion in the Ancient Near East and Asia, edited by Nicole M. Brisch and Fumi Karahashi, Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Records 30 (2023, Berlin: De Gruyter), pp. 189–208. Link.
Danish. A free rendition of Enheduana’s Exaltation of Inana, commissioned by Shëkufe Tadayoni Heiberg for the indie press Forlaget Uro and illustrated by Johanne Helga Heiberg Johansen. One reviewer called it “an impressively accesible, deeply fascinating publication”; another asked: “What have we done to deserve such a pearl of delight?”
Dronning over verdens magter, illustrated by Johanne Helga Heiberg Johansen, 2020, Hvidovre: Forlaget Uro. Link.
Danish. Written for the outreach project “Kvinder rundt om kanon” (“Women around the canon”), which sought to map key female authors from the non-Western world, this short blog posts presents Enheduana’s life and works to a Danish audience.
“Den første kendte forfatter var en kvinde” (“The first known author was a woman”), Kvinder rundt om kanon, hosted by Aaby Library (June 2020). Link.
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.
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