ACABS 491 - Topics in Ancient Civilizations and Biblical Studies
Section: 001 Ancient Semitic Poetry in Translation
Term: WN 2009
Subject: Ancient Civilizations and Biblical Studies (ACABS)
Department: LSA Middle East Studies
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s).
Undergrad and Grad
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Slaying the Dragon, Illuminating the Soul: Ancient Semitic Poetry from the Middle East in English Translation. The course will explore the variety of ancient poems from the Middle East, which, while outside the Bible, provide the most immediate context for the imagery, metaphors, and poetic vocabulary from the Bible. Thus, a study of this ancient poetry not only offers us access to the thought-world of the ancient Middle East, but it also informs our understanding and reading of biblical books like Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Job.

The corpus of texts to be studied includes the Canaanite mythic/epic/magic texts from the ancient city of Ugarit at one extreme and the poems from the Dead Sea Scrolls, from early Judaism and early Christianity at the other. The texts are read in order to explore their literary characteristics, how these literary characteristics reflect the themes and ideas of the works they are incorporated within, and the literary parallels to other works, including the Bible and other Ancient Near Eastern texts.

In addition to these aspects of the poems themselves, the course will explore the manner in which we read and analyze poems, specifically how scholars have described ancient Semitic poetry and how their methodologies and approaches can be applied to the texts we will be reading.

Each class will include a lecture followed by a discussion of pertinent poems and passages. Students are given a series of specific questions that they are to think about concerning specific poems/passages and are responsible for having something prepared for class to say in response to the questions.

There are no language prerequisites for the course. No prior knowledge of Ugaritic or Hebrew is required. Student evaluation will be made based on class attendance/participation, on a midterm, a final, and a short paper.

Your instructor has published articles on the subject of Hebrew poetry and the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls in many international journals, as well as a book on Hebrew poetry. In addition, he is a writer whose poetry has appeared in various American literary journals like the New Orleans Review, Cimarron Review, and New South.

We will use, as our textbooks, the following translations Ugaritic Narrative Poetry (ed. Simon B. Parker; Writings from the Ancient World Series 9; N.P.: Society of Biblical Literature/Scholars Press, 1997) and Geza Vermes' The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (New York: Penguin, 2004). Students should also have access to a Bible, specifically a NRSV or JPS translation. Other material will be covered by handouts distributed once classes begin.

Feel free to ask questions. Email me at

ACABS 491 - Topics in Ancient Civilizations and Biblical Studies
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 4:00PM - 5:30PM
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