ARCE PA: The Afterlife of a Middle Egyptian Poem: Receptions of The Teaching of Amenemhat from Egypt to Nubia
Presented by: Dr. Maggie Geoga; Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities, Wolf Humanities Center, University of Pennsylvania
- 3:30 PM EDT Pennsylvania
“The Teaching of Amenemhat” is the only work of ancient Egyptian literature to depict the murder of a king. Narrated by the assassinated pharaoh Amenemhat I, the poem is unique in both its dark subject matter and its great popularity among ancient reader in Egypt and Nubia. Much of the previous scholarship on “Amenemhat” has focused on the poem’s composition and relationship to the politics of the 12th dynasty. This lecture, in contrast, shifts the focus from the birth of the poem to its afterlife, investigating who was reading “Amenemhat”, how they interpreted the poem, and how interpretations changed over the approximately 1000 years of the poem’s circulation. Combining textual criticism, reception theory, and material philology, I examine a selection of the poem’s surviving manuscripts, investigating the contexts in which they were copied and read, as well as their varying versions of the text. My analyses of these manuscripts reveal that this enigmatic poem had a diverse array of ancient readers, from a treasury scribe in the capital, to a student visiting the crumbling pyramid of the long dead Amenemhat I, to a Kushite king hundreds of miles away in Nubia. I argue that these readers’ unique encounters with “The Teaching of Amenemhat” reveal important shifts in what readers valued about the poem and how they interpreted it over the course of its long afterlife.