The Shape of Stories

Narrative Structures in Cuneiform Literature


How were narratives composed in the ancient Near East? What patterns and principles, constraints and considerations guided the shaping of cuneiform stories? The study of narrative structures has emerged as a promising approach to the textual heritage of the cuneiform world. Engaging with practically any ancient text—whether literary, historical, or religious—requires some understanding of the narrative forms that shaped their content. This volume gives researchers the tools to better understand those form, illustrating each approach to narrative analysis with a case study from the cultures of the ancient Near East: Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Hittite.

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Sophus Helle, Ph.D. (2020), Aarhus University, is a postdoctoral researcher in Assyriology at Freie Universität Berlin. His translation of Gilgamesh and the poems of Enheduana, the world’s first author, are published with Yale University Press.

Gina Konstantopoulos, Ph.D. (2015), University of Michigan, is Assistant Professor of Assyriology and Cuneiform Studies at the University of California Los Angeles. Her monograph on the Sebettu-demons is forthcoming with Brill.
List of Figures and Tables
Notes on Contributors

1 Introduction: Narratology and Cuneiform Studies
Sophus Helle and Gina Konstantopoulos

Part 1 Stitching a Story

2 Recurrent Structures in the Sumerian Gilgamesh Cycle
Alhena Gadotti

3 Transition and Cohesion in the Tale of Zalpa
Robert Marineau

4 Unreliable Foreshadowing in Divine Predictions
Louise Pryke

Part 2 Medium and Emotion

5 Tablets as Narrative Episodes in Babylonian Poetry
Sophus Helle

6 The Dynamics of Repetition in Akkadian Epics
Selena Wisnom

7 Charting Emotional Shapes in Cuneiform Literature
Gina Konstantopoulos

8 Representing Time in the Kiutu Incantation-Prayers
Beatrice Baragli

Part 3 The Shape of the Past

9 Historical Explanation in the Babylonian Chronicles
Ben Dewar

10 The “Pre-History” of the Sumerian King List and its Narrative Residue
Gösta Gabriel

11 Blank Space: Akkadian Metapoetics in the Bel-etir Narrative
Claudio Sansone

Part 4 Excavating Narratives

12 In Search of Dumuzi: An Introduction to Hylistic Narratology
Annette Zgoll, Bénédicte Cuperly, and Annika Cöster-Gilbert

Primary interest is for scholars of Assyriology; also of interest to scholars of literary studies and Comparative Literature, Classics, Biblical Studies, and academic institutions with foci in those areas.
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