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History 100 – Early World History Liam O’Mara IV

Response Paper One – Assignment Sheet 17.VI.2018

The Epic of Gilgamesh translated by Andrew George

New York: Penguin Classics, 2003

This assignment asks you to read The Epic of Gilgamesh – a Sumerian mythic narrative that is the oldest surviving work of its kind in the world. Originally composed between three and four thousand years ago in Mesopotamia, its basic themes of life and death, friendship and love, grief and loss, can tell us a great deal about the cultures that produced and preserved it, and can still speak to readers today. This paper is asking you to consider how.

What does this text tell us about life in ancient Mesopotamia? Can you identify the social, ethical, & political values it communicates to readers? What uniquely- Mesopotamian ideas are expressed in the Epic, and why might they make sense to its audience? Consider the practical effect its lessons might have had, in order to understand why it might have been written and passed down through the generations.

Next, I want you to place the text into historical context. The Epic was transmitted to each of the peoples that followed the Sumerians in that region, and it influenced the Assyrians, the Persians, and the Hebrews in various ways. Consider why it might have been translated and preserved for so long. What value might later generations have found in its basic themes? Can you find any parallels with other works?

Keep in mind that this is not to be a summary or review of the text – it is an analytical response paper, and the goal is to address specific themes of the text and place them into historical context. Overall, I want to see two things: that you have read the Epic, and that you can discuss its themes and relate them to this class. You do not need to tell me the story!! The best papers – the ones able to get the better grades – will make direct connexions to material we have discussed in class, and will support their arguments with evidence from readings and lectures. Please include citations to sources used, whether they be the text of the Epic itself, or class lectures, or other works. This is NOT a research paper, though – class lecture and the introduction to the Penguin edition of the Epic, and the textbook if you have it, are all you need. NO GOOGLING!

The closer you get to formatting suggested in the Chicago Manual of Style, the happier I will be (with one exception – title pages are a waste of paper!). If you want to make me smile, take a glance at the citation guidelines you can find on-line, and at the brief summary of points that I included on the course syllabus.

Your paper should be three to five pages in length, and it must be stapled or it will not be accepted! The assignment is worth 7.5% of your grade and is due in class on Monday, 9 July. Please do not e-mail papers to me! Bring stapled hardcopy to class.

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