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AbysmalA Critique of Cartographic Reason$
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Gunnar Olsson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780226629308

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226629322.001.0001

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(p.251) Uruk
University of Chicago Press

The oldest masterpiece of world literature, the epic poem of Gilgamesh, is an outstanding study of power, fame, friendship, and the fear of death; a remarkable attempt to determine what it means to be human; in the words of the expert, a story of growing up; an existential drama of lasting impact, cartographical reason in practice; and an (auto)biographical study of how a violent adolescent matures into a reconciled man. In the prologue the poet stresses that even though Gilgamesh's fame is closely tied to the wall he had built around the city, his greatness is anchored less in his glorious achievements than in his tragic failures. The ultimate fix-points of the mapping expeditions he is about to undertake are well defined, the city of Uruk at the same time both the origin and the destination of his search. The poem mentions “The Deep,” which is in fact another term for the realm of Apsu, the non-classifiable abyss which in Enuma elish was the home of Power itself. And a figure of power is exactly what Gilgamesh is.

Keywords:   Gilgamesh, epic poem, power, fame, friendship, death, cartographical reason, Uruk, abyss

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