LCANE Autumn Lecture series 2020: Text and Performance

LCANE – Text and Performance

Convened by Jana Matuszak and Sam Mirelman.

Lectures will be on Zoom. To register, use this google form:

 12 Oct Giulia Torri (Florence)

“Oh Sun-god, you are looking constantly into man’s heart!” On Prayers in Hittite Magical Rituals

There are several short prayers inserted in the Hittite magical rituals (for. ex. CTH 458.2, CTH 395, CTH 716). According to the ritual descriptions they were pronounced aloud by the performer or the patient. In my lecture I am going to analyze some of these prayers and compare them with the Hittite canonical prayers recited by the king, which are considered an independent literary genre (CTH 371-389). In general, it is assumed that these prayers developed from the shorter invocations to the gods inserted in the rituals. My aim is to discuss the possible stylistic mutuality between these two sets of texts in order to show that prayers and rituals have much in common, not simply because they are the product of the same religion, but especially because they were composed within the framework of the same scribal tradition.


19 Oct Martin Worthington (Dublin)

Interruption in Babylonian narrative

Do characters in Babylonian narratives always deliver complete, well-crafted speeches?  Or do they get interrupted before they had reached the end of what they wanted to say?  My talk will explore these questions, asking how we might recognise interruptions as such, and what the implications are – not least for performance.


26 Oct Catherine Mittermayer (Geneva)

For the pleasure of the king? The performance of Sumerian precedence debates

Most of the Sumerian precedence debates that have come down to us mention either a religious ceremony or a royal festival as the background for the disputation. Furthermore, they show linguistic features pointing to a possible performance of the text. The lecture will discuss the various settings described in the precedence debates as well as possible forms of staging.


2 Nov Richard Parkinson (Oxford)

Embodying Ancient Egyptian Poetry: Performances and Experimental Philology

The lecture will discuss the role of the performer’s voice in Middle Kingdom poetry, firstly from a historian’s perspective, and then from that of modern experimental performances. These can offer different insights from traditional philological approaches, in terms of textual history, interpretation, and aesthetic, emotional impact. The lecture will illustrate a series of performances of The Tale of Sinuhe, and an ongoing project to record this and two other 12th Dynasty poems with actress and author Barbara Ewing, to consider how performers can offer a model for translators and Egyptologists.


16 Nov Frances Reynolds (Oxford)

Warring Gods and Esagil Rites

It has long been known that Marduk and Ti’amat’s battle, most famously recounted in the epic Enūma eliš, was associated with the Esagil temple in Babylon. However, questions remain about the nature of this association over time, including the ritual realization of this battle in the akītu-festival as part of the New Year celebrations in Nisannu. This talk explores aspects of the relationship between this battle myth and temple cult, including a complex relationship developed in the Late Babylonian period.


23 Nov Uri Gabbay (Jerusalem)

Laments in the Liturgy of Ancient Mesopotamia

Laments over the destruction of cities and temples were a main part of the liturgy of ancient Mesopotamian temples in Babylonia and Assyria. These laments, written and sung in a special dialect of the Sumerian language, are known to us today from over 1500 cuneiform clay tablets dating from about 2000 BCE until the first century BCE. These liturgical laments emphasize the divine rage that caused destruction but also the divine and human sorrow over this destruction. Thus, one of the main concerns of these laments are emotions. The laments deal with divine emotions, but in their performance also reflect human emotions. The lecture will discuss these laments both as literary texts and as performed texts, and will examine the relationship between these two aspects of the laments.


30 Nov Dahlia Shehata (Würzburg)

Narrated time and space in Mesopotamian Combat Myths

Combat myths of Mesopotamia belong to the genre of “heroic poetry” in a broader sense of the word. Whether in Enuma elish, the Babylonian creation story, or in the Anzu Epic, common to all these myths is a heroic male god who sets out to conquer an overpowering monster that threatens the world and the divine order. The conquered monster represents the overcoming of chaos, which is why these texts are also referred to in German as “Chaoskampfmythen.” In the course of his mission, the heroic god wanders through different spaces of the real and mythical world, at the same time overcoming various dangers leading to his final victory. Dahlia Shehata will present a sample of these literary texts focusing on how time and space are narrated for purposes of highlighting and emphasizing special events. Particular attention will be paid to each single text’s literary as well as performative contexts.


7 Dec Paul Delnero (Baltimore)

Performing Literature: Mesopotamian Cultic and Mythological Texts in Performance 

Mesopotamian mythological and cultic texts, because they are known only from written sources and are composed in an elevated, poetic style, are frequently read as if they were like modern works of literature, known to only a small group of literate elites. In this paper, this assumption will be challenged with examples of how different types of Mesopotamian texts that have been labelled as “literary” would have been known primarily through oral transmission and of how the written sources for these compositions were used less to record the content of the texts in writing than to facilitate their delivery during performance.


14 Dec Ian Rutherford (Reading)

Religious Travel and Pilgrimage in Mesopotamia and Anatolia: Problems of Evidence and Typology

In all ancient societies people sometimes visited places deemed religiously significant for religious reasons, a practice which to some extent maps onto the modern concept of “pilgrimage”.  This must have been true of Mesopotamia also (pace McCorriston 2011) and Hittite Anatolia, although the evidence is often poor.  This paper aims to examine evidence for such religious travel in these areas. I aim to identify a number of (potentially overlapping) types, including:  1. journeys of kings, 2. cultic journeys; 3. participation in regional common sanctuaries; 4. amphictionies; 5. healing pilgrimage; 6. the sending of tribute. On this basis, it is hoped it might be possible to begin to understand the development of religious travel in these regions.