Crossing Borders between Genres and Languages in Ancient Mesopotamian Literature in the Old Babylonian Period

Scholars of the Mesopotamian literature of the Old Babylonian period (roughly 2000-1500 BCE) usually deal with one of three literatures written in cuneiform script that are distinguished linguistically: (1) Myths, epics, wisdom literature, hymns and prayers written in the main register of Sumerian (Emegir) and known mainly from the scribal schools; (2) Lament-prayers in the Emesal register of Sumerian; and (3) myths, epics, wisdom literature, hymns, prayers, and incantations, written in the Akkadian languages.

On the one side, usually each of these literatures is dealt with independently, and the connections between these genres are only very rarely investigated. On the other side, on the rare cases that such connections are treated, the limits are often completely removed by reconstructing a common tradition for the Sumerian and Akkadian bodies of literature. Both approaches reflect extreme positions, but neither of them seems convincing.

The main goal of the present proposal is to converge the extreme positions and to gently start crossing the borders between the three literatures without treating them on the other hand as belonging to one large corpus. The two applicants have each worked independently on these corpora, and together they will try to identify the literary “agents” that allowed the flowing of motifs and themes, between the three main bodies of literature of this period.

Participants