Reading Sumerian Poetry

Book Details

Author  Jeremy Black
Publisher  Cornell University Press
Publication Date   December 10, 1998
ISBN  0801435986
Pages  288

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An international authority on Sumerian culture, Jeremy Black here provides an introduction to the world's oldest poetry. Sumer, in southern Iraq, was the first literate culture in civilization, dating as far back as 2500 b.c. Its literature, which is made up almost entirely of poetry, was lost for nearly two millennia; rediscovery and decipherment of the ancient texts began in the nineteenth century.Black is fully aware of the difficulties of applying modern literary methods to the study of ancient literature, emphasizing theoretical problems that arise from contemporary expectations of a unitary text. Acknowledging the fragmentary nature of Sumerian poetry, he turns what might be considered a serious obstacle to the enjoyment of the literature into an asset. The book features Black's complete English translations of Lugalbanda, a narrative poem about the eponymous hero and his encounter with a monstrous bird, and its sequel, Lugalbanda in the Mountain Cave. Looking closely at the imagery in the Lugalbanda poems, Black perceives in them a rich and sophisticated poetic imagination and technique, which, far from being in any sense "primitive," are so complex as to resist modern literary analysis.

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