Welcome to my periodical rant about the world’s first name author. Turn away now if you want to continue thinking it’s a bloke…
Part of my interest in archaeology stems from reading history and literary history. Time and again an individual ‘unearths’ or ‘discovers’ a rich literary, creative legacy related to our female cultural predecessors as if they are the first to find them. They aren’t.
Women of antiquity are forgotten and discovered, and discovered, and discovered. This is because they are erased, and erased and erased. Meanwhile, the knowledge of the likes of Homer or Gilgamesh are ubiquitous.
This is not just me btw, entire academic fields have devoted decades to saving women from erasure, repeatedly, because otherwise their work, in turn, is also erased.
Women’s stories have not been told. And without stories there is no
articulation of experience. Without stories a woman is lost when she
comes to make the important decisions of her life…. If women’s stories are not told, the depth of women’s souls will not be known. (Carol P. Christ, Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest (Boston:
Beacon Press, 1980), 1.)
Take that those looking for academic references in support of my assertions.
Any way, to tell a story, in the 1920s there was a dig. During the dig the poetry and likeness of Enheduanna, the first named author in all the world, was found. But she too, keeps being buried, like the cuneiform tablets her work was recorded upon. We know what she wore, and that’s more than we know about Homer. Yet she is reburied by assumption and by ignorance, even as again and again, efforts are exerted to show the world she existed. A precious few keep explaining how her words influenced literature and religion for longer than Shakespeare has influenced the world. But the analogy is turned around.
And in this topsy-turvy world, Shakespeare isn’t suddenly known as the English Enheduanna. Rather, the first named poet of the world is reduced, and labelled the Sumerian/Akkadian Shakespeare of the fertile crescent.
Thus, these are missing:
- Her tributes.
- Hundreds of works written in imitation.
- Conspiracy theories about her life (not gorram ancient alien clap trap).
- Her myriad scholars.
- Recitals of her poems.
- Versions of her life in movies and myths.
They don’t exist. Or, if they do, they are problematic and talk her down. Hence, the world’s first named author was found, and too few know her name, let alone enough to do any of the above. I was one of them until a few years ago.
Which leads me to Twitter. Yep. It’s a cesspool of anonymous abuse, but it’s also a useful tool to connect people and information. There are accounts (bots) dedicated to tweeting the lyrics of Africa by Toto, for instance. This is true and harmless. Often, it is apposite. Then there is Sappho Bot, tweeting endlessly the few lines of this poet’s works to the world, for anyone who wants to follow. In a thousand years, some digital imprint of tweet of a lyric fragment could be the only thing left of Sappho’s work.
Inspired, I went looking for an Enheduanna Bot or some equivalent. However, while there are accounts using the En Priestess title, and some discuss her existence, none seem to be doing what Sappho Bot does: tweeting translations of her poetry. Sure, twitter is not the be all and end all of cultural repositories, but it can’t hurt for the work of the Earth’s first ever named poet to exist on this platform like the tiny fragments of Sappho’s works do?
Thus, I have been looking at how to make a bot. Setting up one to “like” or “retweet” things seems straightforward, but automating tweets to deliver content is slightly more tricky. If I manage it, or if someone else does, maybe the next unwitting person in need of the wisdom and inspiration of ancient Ur will have digital options in addition to unearthing a dusty book from a shadowy corner of an unfrequented library or abandoned tome in a lonesome second-hand book store.