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Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning
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Gilgamesh's Search for Meaning

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  • 1. GILGAMESH: THE SEARCH FOR MEANING
  • 2. THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH .  In our study this week of gods and the “male divine,” we’ll visit the story of Gilgamesh.  The person of Gilgamesh offers a rich example a mythic demi-god who remains, in many ways, down to earth.  If myths play a role in defining the values and identity of a culture, then the Epic of Gilgamesh offers a window into the worldview of the culture of produced it more than three thousand years ago
  • 3. THE RUINS OF URUK (IRAN) Gilgamesh, the man, is generally regarded as a historical figure from about 2,700 B.C. Archeologists believe they may have found his tomb among the ruins of ancient Uruk. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2982891.stm).
  • 4. QUICK TAKE: THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH Gilgamesh & Enkidu slay the Bull of Heaven  King Gilgamesh is oppressing his people.  The gods send him a rival, the wild man Enkidu, who becomes his good friend.  Together, Gilgamesh and Enkidu defy the gods by killing the giant Humbaba.  Gilgamesh and Enkidu then kill the Bull of Heaven, sent to punish Gilgamesh.
  • 5. QUICK TAKE: THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH Modern representation of Utnapishtim,  Enkidu dies of an illness sent by the gods.  Horrified by Enkidu's death and the prospect of his own demise, Gilgamesh undertakes a quest for immortality.  Gilgamesh visits Utnapishtim, a virtuous man who obeys the gods and was saved by them from the Great Flood.  Utnapishtim puts Gilgamesh to various tests which he fails, and assures Gilgamesh that he cannot escape death.  Gilgamesh returns to Uruk.
  • 6. GILGAMESH: MEANING BEHIND THE NARRATIVE What were the editors of this epic trying to communicate when they constructed the story?
  • 7. GILGAMESH: MEANING BEHIND THE NARRATIVE Key themes:  Can humanity become like the gods themselves?  Can they beat the gods at their own game?
  • 8. GILGAMESH: MEANING BEHIND THE NARRATIVE Gilgamesh is admonished by Enkidu as they battle Humbaba. Who, my friend, can scale heaven? Only the Gods dwell forever with the Sun-god. As for mankind, numbered are its days; whatever they achieve is but wind. Even here you are afraid of death. Gilgamesh & Enkidu slay Humbaba
  • 9. GILGAMESH: MEANING BEHIND THE NARRATIVE Gilgamesh continues to wrestle against the fate that the gods have reserved for every human being. At one point, Enkidu is enraged that he had lost his idyllic life of a wild-man, and was about the curse the existence of the divine agent who had civilized him. The Sun-god Shamash reminds Enkidu of the existential perspective he had once given Gilgamesh. Why, O Enkidu, do you curse the harlot Who made you fit for divinity, And gave you to drink wine fit for royalty, Who clothed you with noble garments, And made you have fair Gilgamesh for a comrade?
  • 10. GILGAMESH: MEANING BEHIND THE NARRATIVE Siduri, another agent of the gods, offers Gilgamesh similar advice. You Gilgamesh, let your belly be full Be happy day and night. Throw a party every day, Dance and play day and night! Let your garment be sparkling fresh. Your head be washed; bathe in water. Pay heed to the little one that holds onto your hand Let your spouse delight in your bosom. For this is the task of mankind. -Tablet XIII Siduri: Wise Goddess of Fermentation
  • 11. GILGAMESH: MEANING BEHIND THE NARRATIVE Finally, Gilgamesh visits Utnapishtim, the immortal survivor of the Great Flood. Gilgamesh asks the sage what he must do to achieve immortality. Utnapishtim offers two exercises that he knows Gilgamesh will fail. Gilgamesh returns to Uruk, seeing with new eyes the great achievements embodied in the city. Gilgamesh retrieves root of youth from ocean floor
  • 12. GILGAMESH: MEANING BEHIND THE NARRATIVE He has matured, and has a firmer understanding of where he may find true happiness. When Gilgamesh returns to Uruk, he is still stinging from the hard lessons he has learned. In the final scene, Gilgamesh admires the fortifications of his city as he returns home.
  • 13. GILGAMESH: MEANING BEHIND THE NARRATIVE  Irony: The epic revels in the feats of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Yet the final lesson of the story is that humanity’s function is not found in struggling against the gods.
  • 14. GILGAMESH: MEANING BEHIND THE NARRATIVE Other messages:  True happiness is not to be found in mere sensual pleasure but in acquiring virtue and wisdom.  Family and kin are most important in life.  Immortality is available to humans only in an enduring name and some lasting achievement left behind.
  • 15. GILGAMESH: MEANING BEHIND THE NARRATIVE Sources:  George, Andrew R. “The Epic of Gilgamesh: “Thoughts on Genre and Meaning,” Gilgamesh and the World of Assyria. Proceedings of the Conference Held at the Mandelbaum House, the University of Sydney, 21-23 July 2004. J. Azize, J and N. Weeks, eds., Leuven: Peeters, pp. 37-66.  Gerig, Bruce. “David & Jonathan and the Epic of Gilgamesh, Part 1” http://epistle.us/hbarticles/gilepic1.html.  Ray, Benjamin Caleb 1996. The Gilgamesh epic: Myth and meaning. Pp. 300-26 in Myth and Method, ed. L. L. Patton and W. Doniger. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.  Sasson, Jack M.“Some Literary Motifs in the Composition of the Gilgamesh Epic,” Studies in Philology VOl. 69, 3 (July 1972), 259-279.  (http://fajardo-acosta.com/worldlit/gilgamesh/#synopsis)  Image of Young Enkidu: http://sandregriffin.blogspot.com/ By Walter Ratliff

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