One of the primary functions of this Blogsite is to encourage students to think about and explore a given text assigned for class on their own before we work together in class to make sense out of the story. The second blogpost of the semester is designed with that task in mind, as I want you to articulate some preliminary thoughts about the complex Epic of Gilgamesh, which is viewed by many experts as perhaps the earliest masterpiece of world literature. To variously explore this wonderful story, I want you to do two things (in at least one paragraph for each part):
1) The first myths we studied this semester were various myths of creation and destruction, which are far shorter than the Gilgamesh legend, and also come from far different times, places, and cultures. Yet there is meaning to be found when bringing these diverse early myths into conversation with the ancient mythical roots of Mesopotamia. For part one, then, I’d like you to consider similarities and differences between the shorter creation and destruction myths and the far longer Epic of Gilgamesh. What might get revealed about the differences between early “epic” and “myth” by comparing, for example, the trials and tribulations faced by Gilgamesh with the Biblical story of creation? To really explore such issues, please compare Gilgamesh to a single creation/destruction myth of your choosing, and then pick two characters (one from each text) and compare/contrast them. What does this interaction suggest about the characters themselves, and more importantly, about key elements of each myth (if not their respective societies)? What does your comparison reveal about the two works, and the two different types of work in question (i.e. epic vs. myth) ??
2) For your second section, I’d like you to draw very precisely on some of our earlier work in class, specifically our foundational classwork on the all-important theories of Aristotle (on tragedy) and Joseph Campbell (on the “monomyth” of the hero). For Part Two, then, I would like you to carefully and critically apply the ideas of these thinkers to The Epic of Gilgamesh. If you are interested in the key notions of Aristotle, you might show how the plot of this epic masterpiece fits certain “tragic” modes (such as leading toward a kind of “catharsis”), or attempt to view Gilgamesh (or perhaps Enkidu) as a kind of “tragic hero” according to the terms laid out by Aristotle. On the other hand, you might tell us about how Campbell’s theories regarding the hero’s quest (i.e. separation – initiation – return) help us to understand the journey undertaken by Gilgamesh. Overall, what key ideas or issues get raised through a careful application of the ideas of Aristotle and/or Campbell’s to this fascinating Mesopotamian epic?