Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hmm …

… Why Has No One Ever Heard of the World’s First Poet? | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

It is incredibly inspiring that the first author that we know of in all of human history was a woman living within a kick-your-teeth-down-your-throat, highly repressive patriarchal society. I imagine it took a lot of courage for her to step out of the convention of anonymous writing and boldly attach her name to her works. People probably regarded her as conceited and arrogant, a prima donna and an iconoclast. But she was also the king’s daughter, which gave her an immense amount of privilege. She used this privilege to carry her father’s water as he brutally expanded his colonial empire.
The "first author that we know of" is not the same as the first author ever.  And as Mel Brooks has pointed out, "It's good to be the king." Not bad to be the king's daughter, either, and a high priestess as well. What you imagine and what you think probable is purely speculative. The main question is whether her work is still worth reading.


  1. Ted Gioia:

    . . . Sappho gained renown as the celebrated “inventor” of the ancient love song. But who knows the name of Enheduanna, the Sumerian high priestess who wrote sexually-charged love songs more than 1,500 years before the Greek poetess? Enheduanna is the oldest songwriter identified by name whose works have survived, yet only a handful of specialists in Assyriology have any grasp of her significance. More than anyone, she deserves credit for creating the love song—but music history textbooks ignore her contributions.

    Was the Love Song Invented in Africa and the Middle East?

  2. I suspect such things were being done wherever humans had settled, but we know virtually nothing of what was going on elsewhere around that time. Which of course does not mean that Enheduanna should not be given her due. I just wouldn't draw grand inferences about it.