Chicago: Gender Switching in Egyptian Literature

Registration is Required

Presented by: Dr. Ann Macy Roth; Clinical Professor, Departments of Art History and of Hebrew & Judaic Studies, New York University

  • 5:00 PM CTChicago
  • In-Person/ZoomLaSalle Banks Room at Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures The University of Chicago 1155 E 58th St. Chicago, IL 60637
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Lecture Abstract:

A productive way of looking at ancient Egyptian society’s assumptions about the differences between men and women is to examine works of art and literature in which they play the same roles, and note the places where changes need to be made.  For example, one can compare the same chapter of the Book of the Dead when it belongs to a man and when it belongs to a woman.  A similar comparison can be made when a man and a woman play the same roles in a literary narrative.  In this lecture, I will argue for the underlying similarity of two well-known ancient Egyptian stories, “The Tale of Two Brothers” from the New Kingdom and “The Myth of Isis and Osiris” as recorded by Plutarch and alluded to in other ancient Egyptian texts.  By examining what can stay the same in these stories and what must change when the gender of the character is changed, we can gain some insights into what the ancient Egyptians thought about the nature of the male and female genders.

Speaker’s Bio:

Ann Macy Roth grew up in Portland, Oregon and received both her B.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Egyptology at the University of Chicago.  Her doctoral dissertation was written on groups called phyles and their use in a system of social organization during the Pyramid Age, later published as Egyptian Phyles in the Old Kingdom. While a student at Chicago, she worked both for the Quseir al-Qadim expedition and the Epigraphic Survey at Chicago House in Luxor.  After receiving her degree, she spent a year in Cairo, copying and studying the mastaba chapel of the wife of Mereruka at Saqqara, which had remained uncopied when the Oriental Institute’s expedition to Saqqara recorded her husband’s mastaba.

After several years at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, she served as a visiting instructor at the University of California, Berkeley.  She was appointed to a faculty position at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1993, and since 2003 she has taught at New York University, where she is now a clinical professor.  Prof. Roth’s field research in Egypt has been supported by several grants from the American Research Center in Egypt and two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  She has directed nine seasons of epigraphic and archaeological fieldwork at Giza between 1989 and 2005, the first part of which was published as A Cemetery of Palace Attendants (Giza Mastabas 6); her second volume on the Western Cemetery is in preparation.  Her principal writing project at the moment, however, is a study of the patterns of gender relations in ancient Egypt.