If you are in the Cincinnati area and you’re interested in a stage adaption of the Gilgamesh epic, Gilgamesh in Uruk: G.I. in Iraq is playing at the Aronoff until October 7.Â Here is the description:
Gilgamesh in Uruk: G.I. In Iraq breathes new life into the oldest recorded story of human-kind and brings it boldly into the present. Spanning ancient Sumeria and modern-day Iraq, this highly theatrical adaptation utilizes multimedia, movement, original music and elements of mask and puppetry to tell the story of the tyrant king seeking his legacy. Ranging from tragic to funny to downright silly, Gilgamesh reminds us that all legacies come with a price and the universal truths of love and friendship give meaning to all our lives in the face of conflict, loss and grief.
I haven’t seen it yet, but the Cincinnati Enquirer wasn’t too taken with the performance, here is a selection from their review:
Bowden and Pugh dare to hurl almost anything into the thick of production â€“ it may be the 3rd Century BC, but thereâ€™s always room for a cell phone. Or Doritos. Or a hat with a gnome on top.
At one moment, weâ€™re in the thick of a hilariously earnest 12-Step meeting â€“ one of the productionâ€™s most cohesive scenes â€“ the next weâ€™re wending our way across an ancient river.
But too often, these seemingly incongruous influences â€“ declamatory presentation, unsuccessful comic shtick, mini-rituals â€“ are just lobbed against one another and do little but collide. They donâ€™t mesh into the sort of atmospheric production that Pugh seems to be searching for.
â€œGilgameshâ€ is already an intellectually intriguing work. But thereâ€™s much needed to grow it into a more effective piece of theater; impactful emotion, judicious editing, funnier humor. And without that growth, it still feels like a work in progress.
I must say, it would be a jarring for me to see Gilgamesh eating Doritos and talking on a mobile phone…
I am teaching at Southern Seminary this academic year and I grabbed a book from their library that I needed for an essay that I am working on.Â I opened up the book and this is what I found inside the cover:
Â The writing is a bit hard to read, but it says “W.F. Albright.” Southern Seminary purchased a substantial portion of Albright’s personal library.Â Furthermore, the majority of the collection circulates!Â So, I have Albright’s personal copy of Speiser’s collected writings sitting on my shelf right now.
When I opened my email from Jack Sasson with the subject line “[agade] NEWS: Anchor Bible and Yale University Press” I was deeply saddened. The fact that Doubleday, which is an imprint of Random House which is in turn owned by Bertelsmann AG, decided to divest itself of the leading franchise that presents high-level biblical studies research to a semi-popular audience says volumes about their view of the market for these types of books. However, this is exactly what consumers need–thoughtful engagement with biblical studies material. There is plenty of terrible junk out there that major media houses are perfectly happy to keep on their balance sheets (such as the sorry excuse for books called the “Left Behind” series). Here is a summary of my negative reactions to this move:
- As a division of Random House, Doubleday had the biggest mass-market exposure of any publisher of biblical studies related books. Now that Yale owns the series, this exposure will probably dramatically decrease.
- Anchor Yale Bible is a really bad name: its long, uncreative, and cumbersome–I guess the new acronym is going to be AYB which looks more like a fraternity than an academic series
- Yale has a much smaller pocketbook than Doubleday which might limit projects
- Because of the prominence and wide reach of Anchor Bible (even popping up on Barnes and Noble shelves) the thoughtful reach of the field of biblical studies as a whole will shrink
What do you think about this development?
A new research initiative was announced on the Agade list: The Geography of Knowledge in Assyria and Babylonia.Â The goal of the research is to analyze four libraries in order to discern diachronic developments.Â Here is how they describe the project:
While many hundreds of individual scholarly works have been edited and published from cuneiform libraries, there have been almost no in-depth studies of the libraries in their entirety. Previous analyses have often decontextualised and fragmented Assyro-Babylonian scholarship into modern disciplinary categories such as ‘science’, ‘magic’, and ‘religion’. This project aims to restore context and coherence to that scholarship by studying it holistically.
To that end we will undertake a comparative study of four scholarly libraries for which adequate archaeological data exist:
- the Neo-Assyrian temple library of NabÃ» in the royal city of Nimrud/Kalhu in northern Iraq (Wiseman and Black, Cuneiform Texts from Nimrud, 4 );
- the library found outside a priestly family house in Sultantepe/Huzirina near Harran, at the edge of the Neo-Assyrian empire (Gurney and Finkelstein, Gurney and Hulin, Sultantepe Tablets, 1-2 [1957, 1964]), destroyed, like the temple library, in c.612 BCE;
- the library from a private house from area Ue 18 in Uruk, owned by two separate families of ÄÅ¡ipu scholars, c.450-300 BCE (Hunger, von Weiher, SpÃ¤tbabylonische Texte aus Uruk, 1-5 [1976-1998]);
- the library of RÄ“Å¡, temple of the great sky god Anu-Zeus in Uruk, c.200 BCE (van Dijk and Mayer, Baghdader Mitteilungen, Beiheft 10  and related, informally excavated tablets).
We will make quantitative analyses of the manuscripts’ linguistic and orthographic features to look for small-scale and large-scale geographical and diachronic change. We will use methodology from the history of science to explain those continuities, changes, and idiosyncracies in relation to the social, intellectual, and political contexts in which the scholars were working.
IÂ think this will be a really interesting project, however, I wish that they would have included earlier libraries/collections as well–these four are fairly late.
The link for my CV has been down for a couple weeks since I was updating it to take into account some recent publishing developments. It is now back up in its “new and improved” edition on the “My Curriculum Vitae” page.
I am very pleased to announce that you can now outwardly express your love for ancient Near Eastern studies, particularly Mesopotamia, by wearing brand new kiengir wear apparel brought to you by that witty guy behind awilum.com. I am using cafepress and I haven’t sprung for the premium service that allows one to put multiple images on the same product. However, if there is demand, I’ll be happy to upgrade.
Not only will you be promoting ANE studies by wearing kiengir wear, but you will also support the National Museum of Iraq. 50% of the proceeds of kiengir wear will be given to the National Museum of Iraq to help preserve and recover the priceless treasures that are (or were) housed there (the other 50% will go to pay awilum.com hosting).
Right now there are three introductory designs, but keep checking back because more are planned for the future.
I just completed a new order from Eisenbrauns for two new books–Jaakko Hameen-Antilla’s A Sketch of Neo-Assyrian Grammar and Rykle Borger’s Mesopotamische Zeichenlexikon (they were already discounted and I got free shipping so why wait for SBL?). I hope the postal workers are on their A-game because HUC’s library is inaccessible for a little bit while they move the books for a renovation…
You might have seen the review of James Kugel’s new book, How to Read the Bible, in the New York Times Review of Books (the review is by a guy blogging for Slate.com and if I might say so, he is not the most informed person concerning biblical studies so don’t put too much stock into his review). Kugel has a history of shall we say, wordiness (see for instance that it took him 352 pages to say that Hebrew Poetry is based on parallel constructions). So, let me save you some time. Instead of reading his new 848 page book, you can get a condensed version on his website under the heading “Appendix 1: Apologetics and ‘Biblical Criticism Lite.’” His basic argument is that biblical scholars can’t have their cake and eat it too. That is, you can’t study the Bible critically while simultaneously arguing that the Bible retains an authoritative element upon modern life. If someone does engage in this kind of rhetoric, they are guilty of “Biblical Criticism Lite.”
What do you think of Kugel’s appendix? How do you think critical biblical readings interact with those of faith communities?
My thanks to Kyle Greenwood for sending me the link to a site dedicated to the excavation of Assur.Â The site has both English and German sections and includes a history of the city, the digs, updates on current finds, and a bibliography.Â Enjoy.