Danish. If you’ve ever heard of a Danish philosopher, it’s probably Søren Kierkegaard. But 500 years before him, Boethius of Dacia reached a remarkably similar conclusion: that faith is both illogical and true. But to Boethius, the pagan philosophy of Aristotle and Ibn Rushd was more important to study than Christian dogma, making him and his disciples a target for one of the most sweeping persecutions of intellectuals in the European Middle Ages.
“Kender du heller ikke Boethius? Her er den store danske filosof, du aldrig har hørt om” (“You don’t know Boethius either? Here is the greatest Danish philosopher you’ve never heard of”), Politiken Historie (October 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 Unpublished PhD thesis, Aarhus University (February 2020).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.
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.
Disney films over the past ten years have witnessed a remarkable shift, as the ideal of romantic love has been replaced by an ideal of family love. The essay traces the cultural and political ramifications of this shift, to show the importance and potential of studying the history of emotions. It is included as a model essay in the 10th edition of the Norton Sampler.
“Love isn’t what it was: How Disney took to subverting its own romantic ideals,” Aeon (June 2019). Link.
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
A new Danish translation of Gilgamesh that I published with my father, the Danish poet Morten Søndergaard. The book was nominated for the Weekendavisen Literary Prize and was lauded by one reviewer as “one of those miracles that makes life worth living” (Politiken); another wrote that “this new translation is set to become a classic in this country” (Information). Below, you will find tablet I of the translation.
With Morten Søndergaard, Gilgamesh, 2019, Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
Danish. The essay situates the current climate crisis in a broader historical context, examining our cultural experience of living through a “historical moment,” as well as the clashing time of climate change activism, which call for both fast-paced and long-sighted action at the same time.
“Klimaforandringerne har en fordel: Det historiske øjeblik tvinger os til at drømme” (“There is an upside to climate change: The historical moment forces us to dream”), Zetland (January 2019). Link.
In a monologue on mortality from the tenth tablet of Gilgamesh, the sage Uta-napishti depicts death through a set of poetic paradoxes: death is both certain, since it cannot be avoided, and uncertain, since we cannot know anything about it. The essay studies how Uta-napishti represents what he claims to be unrepresentable.
“Babylonian perspectives on the uncertainty of death: SB Gilgamesh X 301-321”, Kaskal, vol. 14 (2017), pp. 211–19.
Drawing on a skit from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, the essay argues that the notion of “Mesopotamia” can be used to evade or reconcile the contradictions that surround the modern nation of Iraq. The simple-looking concept of a single Mesopotamia belies a deeper complexity, produced by clashing discourses and historical shifts.
“The return of Mess O’Potamia: Time, space and politics in modern uses of ancient Mesopotamia”, Postcolonial Studies, vol. 19, no. 3 (December 2016), pp. 305–24. Link. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13688790.2016.1264250
The article (my first) proposes a new understanding of rhythm in Akkadian poetry. Following a suggestion by Wolfram von Soden, it shows that analysing the prosody of Akkadian poems as a sequence of trochees and amphibrachs can reveal a dynamic medium for literary expression.
“Rhythm and expression in Akkadian poetry,” Zeitschrift für Assyriologie vol. 104, no. 1 (June 2014), pp. 56–73. Link. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/za-2014-0003