Making my Way

I finished up double-grading yesterday afternoon, and now the semester is officially over. I’ve still got three weekdays to work (Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday–Mary’s got Wednesday off, so I’ll likely be helping her to clean and to pack) before we take of Friday for Indiana. I’m going to try to knock out three plays each of those days, so I should be able to have ten or so more plays (bringing my total up over fifty) in my notebook for comps. As much as I dislike Renaissance comedy, I’m going to have to bite the bullet and read some more Jonson and Dekker.

Not wanting to dig into Ben Jonson just yet last night, I started Gilgamesh while Mary was doing some school work. The edition I have, unfortunately, is not a composite from several traditions but a direct translation from one cuneiform tablet. So while I can do some reconstruction work from the (copious) scholarly notes, I will likely finish Gardner’s translation itself by the time we hit the road. So perhaps on the road I’ll start into the Icelandic Sagas or something of that sort.

Gilgamesh has much to recommend it for an end-of-semester detox book: it’s a heroic story after the mold of the Odyssey, only without the Greek-style reserve and narrative discipline. So Gilgamesh and Enkidu aren’t really after anything transcendent like glory or family or revenge; they just get bored and for no explicit reason (perhaps it’s given in the missing columns) set out to kill Humbaba, the guardian of the divine mountain, apparently just for kicks. Before that, when Enkidu enters the story, there’s a sex scene that lasts seven nights and six days. And Gilgamesh angers the goddess Ishtar not by blinding her son or invading her holy city or anything like that but by calling her a whore when she makes sexual advances on him. In other words, it’s got all the literary excesses of Hebrew narrative without any of the morality and all of the exaggeration of Homer without the energia and all the oddity of a Herodotus history without the reasoned detachment. In other words, it’s ideal for a detox book.

I’m about halfway through, and already I’m imagining what the Jews in the Exile would have thought when first they heard it. If they thought King Solomon was bad…


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