Writings

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

On the edge of the canon

Danish. Written for a special issue on literary revivals, the essay discusses why the new Danish translation of Gilgamesh has garnered so much attention. As a key example of a literary revival, the translation combined the appeal of a new and unknown poem with that of a foundational and time-tested classic.

“‘Gilgamesh’: På kanten af kanon” (“‘Gilgamesh’: At the edge of the canon”), Standart, vol. 33, no. 2 (July 2019), pp. 42–43.

Love in our time

Disney films over the past ten years have witnessed a remarkable shift, as the ideal of romantic love has been replaced by an ideal of family love.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.

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.

Translation in the singular

Danish. Translating ancient texts is a process of simplification: many manuscripts, variants, and versions are compressed into one book. But in turn, that book leads to many different encounters with the text, and can even occasion new and varied adaptations of it. In short, translation is an hourglass-like movement of condensation and expansion.

“‘Gilgamesh i ental” (“‘Gilgamesh’ in the singular”), Babelfisken (April 2019). Link.

Gilgamesh in Danish

The book is a new Danish translation of Gilgamesh, published in cooperation with the Danish poet (and my father) Morten Søndergaard. The translation employs a novel system to represent breaks in the text, a raised dot, devised by Åse Eg and Wrong Studio. Here you will tablet I of the translation.

With Morten Søndergaard, Gilgamesh, 2019, Copenhagen: Gyldendal.

From beast to man

A new fragment of Gilgamesh, published in 2018, expanded our knowledge about how Enkidu was transformed from animal to human. The fragment showed that Babylonians imagined the process of becoming human as a gradual integration into the community of the city.

“Between gods and animals: becoming human in the Gilgamesh epic,” Aeon (February 2019). Link.

A subversive foundation

Why has Gilgamesh achieved much greater fame in the modern world 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.

Climate change and history

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.