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The Epic of Gilgamesh

Embark on a journey of discovery in this thought-provoking course at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. Explore the mythical world of gods, friendship, and the pursuit of eternal life and delve into the fragments that captivated scholars, poets, and readers for centuries. Discover what the "oldest story in the world" can reveal about literature, religion, and the human experience.

  • All levels
  • 21 and older
  • $335
  • Online Classroom
  • 12 hours over 4 sessions

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  • $335
  • 12 hours over 4 sessions
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Class Description

Description

What you'll learn in this lecture class:

The epic poem of Gilgamesh, discovered amongst the ruins of the library of Ashurbanipal, the last great Assyrian king, tells the tale of its titular hero—a Mesopotamian king who combats the gods, befriends the wild man Enkidu, and seeks, in the realms of the dead, the secret to eternal life. First translated in the late 19th century, the epic of Gilgamesh immediately captured the attention of Biblical scholars, poets, novelists, psychoanalysts, and legions of readers. 

“In these fragments,” Rainier Maria Rilke wrote, “I have experienced measures and forms that belong with the supreme works that the conjuring Word has ever produced.” What explains our persistent fascination with Gilgamesh? What can the “oldest story in the world” teach us—about ancient literature and poetics, Mesopotamian religion, society, and politics, and contemporary questions of sexuality, friendship, myth, death, and mourning?

In this course, we will read and discuss the whole of the Standard Version of Gilgamesh, attributed to the scholar-priest Sîn-l?qi-unninni, taking up the epic’s great themes: kings and city-foundings, nature and culture, the roles of women, the contested relation of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, death and the trauma of grief, the sorrows of the hero and the recompenses of civic life. 

We’ll supplement our reading of Gilgamesh with a range of Near Eastern and pan-Mediterranean texts, including Enuma Elish and brief extracts from Genesis and from Homer. What can a comparative study of Gilgamesh teach us about ancient literature and Mesopotamian and Mediterranean civilization more broadly? About cultural exchange, migration, and difference? In what ways does Gilgamesh compel us to productively reread “canonic” ancient texts?

Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

Upon registration, the instructor will send along additional information about how to log-on and participate in the class.

Refund Policy

  • Upon request, we will refund less 5% cancellation fee of a course up until 6 business days before its start date.
  • Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to 75% refund or full course credit.
  • After the first class: 50% refund or 75% course credit.
  • No refunds or credits will be given after the second class.

In any event where a customer wants to cancel their enrollment and is eligible for a full refund, a 5% processing fee will be deducted from the refund amount.

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Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

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