Weapons of Words: Intertextual Competition in Babylonian Poetry

A study of Anzû, Enūma Eliš, and Erra and Išum


In Weapons of Words: Intertextual Competition in Babylonian Poetry Selena Wisnom offers an in-depth literary study of three poems central to Babylonian culture: Anzû, Enūma eliš, and Erra and Išum. Fundamentally interconnected, each poem strives to out-do its predecessors and competes to establish its protagonist, its ideals, and its poetics as superior to those that came before them.
The first of its kind in Assyriology, Weapons of Words explores the rich nuances of these poems by unravelling complex networks of allusion. Through a sophisticated analysis of literary techniques, Selena Wisnom traces developments in the Akkadian poetic tradition and demonstrates that intertextual readings are essential for a deeper understanding of Mesopotamian literature.

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Selena Wisnom, D.Phil. (2015, University of Oxford), is a Junior Research Fellow in Manuscript and Text Cultures at The Queen’s College, Oxford. She specialises in the literary and cultural interpretation of cuneiform sources, particularly poetry and divination.
"Selena Wisnom’s Weapons of Words (abbr. WoW) is a well laid out and carefully executed study of three big mythological epics of Akkadian literature, namely Anzû, Enūma eliš (abbr. Ee), and Erra and Išum (abbr. Erra). Wisnom stresses her focus on interpretation and highlights the “extrication of meaning” (WoW, p. 250) as a priority of the book. Aiming at advancing our understanding of the named pieces, Weapons of Words develops new insights into the literary nexus these texts constitute by an in-depth study of their intertextual relations."
- Johannes Bach, University of Helsinki, in Bibliotheca Orientalis LXXVIII N° 1-2 (2021)
Introduction  1 Intertextuality and Allusion  2 The Three Poems  3 The Study of Ancient Allusions  4 Competitive Strategies of Allusion  5 The Babylonian Literary Background  6 Structure of the Book
1 Allusions in Anzû  1 Introduction  2 The Re-shaping of Ninurta’s Victories: Lugal-e and An-gin₇  3 New Names, New Identities  4 Lamentations  5 Reverse Intertextuality  6 Conclusions
2 Enūma eliš and Anzû  1 Introduction  2 Marduk as the New Ninurta  3 The Tablet of Destinies  4 Poisonous Monsters, ‘Poisonous’ Arrows  5 Structural Imitations and Adaptations  6 Lord of Incantations  7 Conclusions
3 Enūma eliš and Atraḫasīs  1 Introduction  2 Destructions: The Dethroning of Enlil  3 Creations: Superseding Ea  4 Conclusions
4 Enūma eliš and Lugal-e  1 Introduction  2 Elements of the Battle  3 Establishing Order  4 Conclusions
5 Erra and Išum: Allusions to Anzû and Lugal-e  1 Introduction  2 Anzû: The Background  3 Erra as Anzû  4 Išum as Ninurta  5 Šar-ur Divides  6 Išum the Door  7 Where Is the Young Hero?  8 Conclusions
6 Overturning the Old Order: Erra and Išum and Enūma eliš, Atraḫasīs, and Gilgameš  1 Introduction  2 Enūma eliš  3 The Deluge  4 Disturbed Sleep  5 A Time before the Flood  6 Marduk’s Defeat and Erra’s Victory  7 Conclusions
7 Erra and Išum and Lamentations  1 Introduction  2 Erra and Išum and the Lamentation over the Destruction of Sumer and Ur  3 The Functions of Lamentation and Praise  4 Conclusions
Conclusion—a Self-Conscious Tradition  1 The Consequences of Competition  2 Implications for Literary History  3 The Power of Intertextuality
References Index
All interested in Mesopotamian literature and religion, including scholars and students in Classics and Biblical studies as well as Assyriology.
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