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The Epic of Gilgamesh.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Ted Petit

- In early times, stories were an oral art and so literary tradition developed with the intent of creating a voice for the reader - Stories are small fraction of a large repertoire of episodes so it doesn’t necessarily need to have beginning, middle and end and climax. It may just be one mythological transformation and end at that point - Oral performance requires face-to-face interaction with audience, sound of voice, role of memory and words are not signs, but events o There’s a rhythm, repetition, and formulas o Stories have formulas repeated to make them memorable; oral stories are often written down in texts in the form of poetry to make them more easily memorized - How is the visible world of the living understood to be related to the invisible realm of the divine? o Immanence: the divine is present within the world; the mundane is permeated with spiritual forces o Transcendence: The divine is outside and beyond the world; the divine is beyond perception and exists independently of the universe - Different types of ideology in stories: o Holism: Privileging the claims of collective over the claims of the individual  Egalitarian ideology: With the respect to ultimate sources of power, persons are considered to be equal o Individualism: Privileging the claims of the individual those of the collective  Hierarchal ideology: Society is stratified into institutionalized categories of persons, differentiated in terms of their prestige and wielding of power The Epic of Gilgamesh - Babylonians had base 60 as their time system and determined 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute o Napoleon tried to change time to have a base 10 (so that it would work with the metric system) but found it was impossible to do because it never caught on o Also used each phase of the moon as a week (made of 7 days) resulting in about a 4 week month - Main narrative plot of a epic (according to Wikipedia): the hero generally participates in a cyclical journey or quest, faces adversaries that try to defeat him in his journey, and returns home significantly transformed by his journey o Did Gilgamesh fulfill this definition? Is the definition based on Gilgamesh?; Did the epic create an epic revolution? Did the epic of Gilgamesh determine how future civilizations wrote stories/told stories? o Gilgamesh, as an individual, went on a quest. He did not need to do this as an initiation or manhood or due to social pressures. He does it supplementary to his social responsibilities - Prologue says that Gilgamesh went on a journey, and found a secret. He found knowledge in the wild. When he returned to the city (the realm of the literate), he wrote down the story. Gilgamesh is the author of this epic o Line 23 parallels the stanza before. The first describes the holiness of the temple and how sacristy it contains because it houses Ishtar. Line 23 discusses the how the box is constructed carefully (similar to the Temple/ziggernaut) and how the epic of Gilgamesh is sacred - Theme of Kingship o Uruk has a very hierarchal society and Gilgamesh is a king, and partly divine  He is how the divine realm and the human realm meet o Gilgamesh is being a horrible, cruel king o Line 43 reminds the reader that Gilgamesh was the great king who reconstructed Uruk and brought divine rituals back to the city.  Later, the text describes how Gilgamesh was a tyrant and cruel and how he disrupted family units. Reader already knows that Gilgamesh turns from cruel tyrant to great king by the end of the epic - Theme of Nature vs. Culture o Humbaba is a demon of the forest, and Gilgamesh represents civilization and the city o “A binary relation is an opposition of two terms where the difference between the terms is thought to tell us something about each of them” – C. Levi Strauss o What marks Enkidu’s transformation from savage to member of society?  Sheppards are found in between the city and the forest. It’s an intermediate zone.  Pg. 23, sheppards offer Enkidu bread (cooked) and Enkidu doesn’t enjoy; bread is from the agriculture society, not the hunter-gatherer society that Enkidu is used to where they eat raw food o Why does Gilgamesh want to go and slay Humbaba?  He wants a name/eternal fame (pg. 20)  People warn him not to but he calls them cowards; he galvanizes his position to slay Humbaba by accumulating more and more reasons over time  Now that Gilgamesh has a companion and an equal, he diverts his attention from depreciative authoritarianism, towards something manly and good o Why Humbaba instead of another deity?  Humbaba is a fiercer representative of the wild. Enkidu also represents the wild, but he can be incorporated into society. Humbaba is so wild that he cannot o If it’s so obvious Gilgamesh can slay Humbaba, why does Enkidu hesitate?  Enkidu is conflicted because he understands how dangerous this quest is, while Gilgamesh is naïve  Gilgamesh is trying to overcome mortality in a figurative way, by creating an eternal name. Enkidu is more aware of his own mortality and knows he could physically die  Ninsun (Gilgamesh’s mother) believes Gilgamesh is afflicted with a restless spirit by Shamash (the sun god) and that is why he wants to slay Humbaba.  Later, Gilgamesh incorporates his relationship to his tutelary deity (Shamash) as a reason for why he should slay Humbaba - Structure is not just form, but how content is related to form o Semantic: the meaning of the word o Syntagmatic: syntax; the combination and order of the way words are placed together o “The Epic of Gilgamesh is driven by two interconnected polarities, nature/culture and mortal/immortal, and the pivot for the entire structure is the relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu” – T. Van Nortwick  when they meet, they take on characteristics of each other and things get more complicated; characters aren’t black and white - EPISODES IN THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH o Enkidu’s Creation and Transformation  What connects society with the wild is human sexuality; prostitute is what takes Enkidu from wild to society  It takes a certain amount of knowledge/culture to have sexuality and to know what to do when the prostitute displays herself o Gilgamesh and Enkidu Become Friends  The epic is not done chronologically, but artistically  Enkidu is told that Gilgamesh had dreams of Enkidu coming rather than the reader reading about Gilgamesh’s dreams before introducing Enkidu. This helps keep focus on Enkidu during the episode about Enkidu’s transformation and change o Gilgamesh and Enkidu Slay Humbaba  Pg. 42, Humbaba pleads Enkidu to spare him but Enkidu tells Gilgamesh to not show any merc
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