Long before the palace intrigues of Jaime, Cersei and Tyrion Lannister, Mesopotamian monarchs established the world’s first empires and littered their landscapes with palaces and temples, fortresses and monumental art. The two Assyrian stone reliefs at WCMA are stunning examples of the “calculated frightfulness” with which the kings ruled, employing politics and religion in effective and deliberate combination. In this course, we meet twice-weekly for an interdisciplinary, closeup look at the WCMA reliefs and objects in the WCMA cuneiform collection to ask: What (and how) did the reliefs ‘mean?’ Why did they merit inclusion in the palace of the one of the most powerful kings in the ancient world? What (and how) do they ‘mean’ in their present Williamstown setting? Finally, what is the status of Nimrud, the ancient city where the reliefs were excavated, post-ISIS, and why does the study of the ancient world matter in the digital age? In this course, our ‘work’ includes readings in ancient texts, learning to write cuneiform signs and words in clay, the Epic of Gilgamesh, royal correspondence, ancient conceptions of the past, gender, sexuality, religion, and stories of queens, kings and courtiers in love and war. We finish with a feast of ancient Mesopotamian fare and an overnight field trip to Yale’s Babylonian Collection. Readings from the extensive bibliography will be selected based on student interest, and the course can be further refined for individual students, including those whose senior theses may benefit from consideration of the ancient world. Students with no experience in art history or ancient history are warmly invited to join, as are those with some background in relevant subjects, such as the religions, cultures and history of the modern Middle East. Adjunct Instructor Bio: Alison Gruseke, PhD, studied at Williams and Yale. Her research and teaching focus on the Hebrew Bible, the ancient Near East, and on the ways in which the ancient world can illuminate modern problems of identity, theology and ethics. The negotiation of cultural boundaries, identity formation, and the interrelationship of cultures in conflict form a strong thread that runs through her work.
The Class: Format: afternoons
Grading: pass/fail only
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: 10-page paper; the final project will be adjusted to fit the academic backgrounds and interests of individual students
Enrollment Preferences: by seniority, auditors are welcome
Materials/Lab Fee: $200 plus cost of books