Flood Narratives: 20 February 2014

Navigating the Great Flood Narratives: select uses and transformations of flood narratives in Ancient China and Mesopotamia

Rens Krijgsman, DPhil Student in Oriental Studies, Pembroke College: Presentation, Text Samples

Kathryn Kelley, DPhil Student in Oriental Studies, St Cross College: Presentation, Text Samples

Date: Thursday, Week 5 (20 February), 17:00

Venue: Florey Room, Wolfson College, OX2 6UD

No registration required. Visitors from other colleges may consider using the free Wolfson College minibus service.

This seminar explores the ways in which flood motifs are embedded into the diverse bodies of Chinese and Mesopotamian textual traditions. Rather than comparing mythological narratives abstractly, we will concentrate on the textuality of the motifs – that is, the function of the motif in diverse texts, and the dynamics of transformation in the use of such motifs. The binding theme of ‘the flood’ was chosen as a platform from which to explore the relationship between mythological narrative and textuality in two diverse indigenous writing traditions.

Ancient China, case study by Rens Krijgsman (rens.krijgsman@orinst.ox.ac.uk)

The narratives on the cultural hero Yu laying out the land and controlling the waters have predominantly been understood as referring to a single historically traceable myth. This session examines the transformations of narratives on Yu from their social context and use rather than an evolutionary perspective. Using the following texts, an analysis is provided of the dominant themes, modes of textual representation, and philosophical programs circumscribing the usage of the narratives.

Ancient Mesopotamia, case study by Kathryn Kelley

The Sumerian City Lament genre, with its theme of major destruction, is often considered to be one of the most influential genres with respect to the development of the Mesopotamian Flood narratives and allusions (see most recently, Chen: 2013 The Primeval Flood Catastrophe: Origins and Early Developments in Sumerian and Babylonian Traditions). In this half of the session we will overview and read selections from the following compositions, with an eye towards comparing their important motifs, narrative structure, and political or philosophical perspectives.

Related publications by Dr Nick Allen

Dr Nick Allen who attended the seminar kindly agreed to share with our Project several papers dealing with related themes of floods and catastrophes in comparative mythology: "And The Lake Drained Away". An Essay in Himalayan Comparative Mythology; Imra, Pentads and Catastrophes; Comparing Mythologies on a Global Scale (A review of E.J. Michael Witzel's The origins of the world's mythologies)