Reading and Discussion of Gilgamesh

West End Library

Reading and Discussion of Gilgamesh

Image of book coverPlease join us for a discussion of Gilgamesh to be held on Wednesday, September 7, at 6:30 p.m. in the small meeting room on the second floor.  The text is Herbert Mason's widely read and enduring interpretation of this ancient Babylonian epic.  Copies are available for pick up at the library.

The epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest and most universal stories in literature. It presents the grand, timeless themes of love and death, loss and reparations, within the stirring tale of a hero-king and his doomed friend. Arguably it is the first complete narrative of a heroic adventure in Western literature.  Questions to think about are these:  

1. How does this narrative address the fundamental difference between gods and men?

2. How does the narrative address fundamental features of human hope and despair?

3. How does the “taming” of Enkidu mirror the failure of Ishtar to make Gilgamesh love her?

4. How many adventures do Gilgamesh and Enkidu undertake together, and is there a significance to that number?

5. How does the story of the flood told by Utnapishtim resonate with the flood story in Genesis, and how is it different?

6. How does the story of the flower of immortality relate to the story of the Tree of Life in Genesis, and how is it different?

7. How does the epic address the issue of what “civilization” is?

8. How does the poem address the notion of cosmos (order) and chaos?

9. How does the poem offer an interweave between love and strife?

10. Is this epic ultimately a cheerful or unhappy epic? What is the basic lesson for its audience?

The talk is the first in the series on the theme of heroic adventure in Western literature, sponsored by the West End Library Friends and led by Ori Z. Soltes, resident scholar in theology and fine arts at Georgetown University. 

All are welcome!