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,” forthcoming in Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions.

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,” forthcoming in Journal of the American Oriental Society.

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.

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.

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.

Mesopotamia in Denmark

Danish. The essay charts the reception of cuneiform cultures in modern Danish art. Four contemporary Danish artists have engaged with Gilgamesh, each of them highlighting a different aspect of the text, and three other artists (among them my mother) have engaged with Sumerian culture to explore the deepest layers of history.

“Hinsides tiderne: Oldtidens Irak i moderne dansk kunst” (”Beyond time: Ancient Iraq in contemporary Danish art”), Små fag, store horisonter: Småfagenes danske kulturhistorie i glimt, special issue of Tværkultur, vol. 7 (May 2017), pp. 35–55. Link.

The uncertainty of death

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.

Emotions in Gilgamesh

My MA thesis examines the depiction of emotions in Gilgamesh. It focuses first on the love between Gilgamesh and Enkidu, then on the grief that afflicts Gilgamesh when Enkidu dies. I argue that the affective bond between the two heroes leads to a dynamic interplay of difference and identification.

“Emotions in Gilgamesh: Desire, grief, and identity in the Standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh.” Unpublished MA thesis, University of Copenhagen (August 2016).