Sophus Helle on Enheduana

Engraving of Enheduana

To destroy and
to create, to plant
and to pluck out
are yours, Inana

— from Sophus Helle's translation of Enheduana

Commonly attributed to the Old Akkadian high priestess Enheduana, The Exaltation of Inana is a fascinating hymn to the Sumerian goddess of war, love, and transformation.

Enheduana, a princess and priestess who lived more than four thousand years ago in what is now southern Iraq, about 2300 BCE, is recognized as the first known author in literary history. Her hymns are a rare flash of the female voice in the often male-dominated ancient world, treating themes that are as relevant today as they were four thousand years ago: exile, social disruption, the power of storytelling, gender-bending identities, the devastation of war, and the terrifying forces of nature.

In this two-part seminar, Helle will discuss Enheduana’s extraordinary poetry, focusing on the historical context in which they were composed and circulated, her works’ structure and literary power, and reception in both the ancient and the modern world. 

Class meets from 2:30–3:45 p.m. on Wednesday, October 9 and 16.

Helle will reference his translation of Enheduana: The Complete Poems of the World's First Author (Yale University Press, 2023), which registrants are encouraged to buy.

This live, virtual course is structured to encourage participation. Registrants will receive Zoom links a week before each session, a day before each session, and the morning of each session. Class recordings will be made available within forty-eight hours of a session. All recordings and class materials will remain available for thirty days after the final session.

Scholarship applications must be submitted by Monday, September 30, at 5 p.m. EDT.

For information on how to register, how to receive the member discount, how to apply for a scholarship, how to access recordings and course materials, and more, please visit our FAQ page.

Log in or Register to sign up!
Sessions in this seminar
Session title
Helle on Enheduana: Session 1
Oct 9th, 2024 2:30pm – 3:45pm EDT
Restricted Access
Session title
Helle on Enheduana: Session 2
Oct 16th, 2024 2:30pm – 3:45pm EDT
Restricted Access
Sophus Helle
Courtesy of Sophus Helle

Sophus Helle

Sophus Helle is a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University. He received an MA in Assyriology from the University of Copenhagen and a PhD in comparative literature from Aarhus University.

Learn more about Sophus Helle
Seminar Resources

Registered attendees get access to live session links, recordings of past sessions, and all seminar materials.