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C O U R S E 
Masterpieces of World Literature
Martin Puchner, Harvard University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Gilgamesh and the Story of the Flood
Notes taken on June 29, 2018 by Edward Tanguay
the flood story called attention to the Epic of Gilgamesh
the flood story was known from the Bible
the role the flood story plays in Gilgamesh
comes late in the story
feels like an interpolated tale, like a story within a story
it's not the centerpiece of the drama of Gilgamesh and Enkidu
there is an ancient tradition in the Near East of stories within stories
in the 1000 and one knights we see this flowering
they loved nested tales
it scales up the story of Gilgamesh to the story of humanity
as if the camera pans out
the Noah figure with an episteme (something known, from ἐπίστασθαι, meaning "to know, to understand, or to be acquainted with)
confronting Gilgamesh with the limits of humanity and human mortality
the counterpoint to the story of Enkidu in the beginning of the epic who becomes human
now at the end of the epic confronting the limits of humanity
asks the question: what is the difference between you and me, and the goddess Ishtar or the sun god Shamash
the gods are immortal and see and know everything
name means "he who found life"
episteme is life
is tasked by Enki to abandon his worldly possessions and create a giant ship to be called Preserver of Life
to bring his wife, family, and relatives along with the craftsmen of his village, baby animals, and grains
the oncoming flood would wipe out all animals and people not on the ship, a concept similar to the biblical story of Noah's Ark
considers the limits of human life in relation to the world of animals and the world of the gods
a contrast between the under world and the upper world
when the flood comes, all of mankind is returned to clay
clay is what people are made up and what your city is made of
when a flood comes through a baked clay city, it can actually just melt it away
the city becomes the larger body of the hero
Utanapishtim becomes the closest thing to becoming immortal, and divine
he and his wife life forever
he knows, like Ziusudra (the main character from an earlier flood story), he is exceeding the wise one
this story is also very realistic
a serious, sober view
he lives on a blessed island
you have to cross the waters of death to get there
it looks a lot like the Elysian Fields of Homer
the most moving moment is the death of Enkidu
and Gilgamesh's lament over him
he can't accept it
stays seven days and seven nights
mirroring the lovemaking at the beginning
sits by the corpse until a worm comes out of the nose
stark, realistic detail
Utnapishtim survived the flood, his God allowed him to live forever
asks Gilgamesh: who will do that for you
the gods don't do that anymore
we have to think of what Homer's attitude is toward these gods and goddesses
the gods world is not our world
our contact is very limited with them
humans are looking forward to the House of Dust
like the Hebrew Sheol
not much going on
drink muddy water for bear
eat dust for your bread
no difference between kings and servants
there is a heap of crowns by the door: leave them as you come in
there is dust on the doors, since people come in, but nobody ever goes out
when Gilgamesh meets with Utanapishtim
comes from a mythic background
before the flood you had a kind of mythic possibility
you could sleep with a goddess
you could become immortal
after the flood, we are confined by the human world
the flood separated the world of myth from the world of history