Chicago: Scribal Kings and Kingly Scribes: Literary Receptions of Kingship in the New Kingdom

Registration is Required

Presented by: Professor Margaret Geoga

  • 5:00 PM CTChicago
  • Zoom/ In-PersonInstitute for the Study of Ancient Cultures The University of Chicago 1155 E 58th St. Chicago, IL 60637
  • + Add to Calendar

Lecture Abstract

This lecture explores how Middle Egyptian wisdom poems allowed New Kingdom readers to construct, understand, and potentially rethink their relationship to the king. Drawing from a selection of wisdom poems—including “The Loyalist Instruction,” “The Teaching of Amenemhat,” and “The Teaching for Merikare”—the lecture asks how New Kingdom scribes, the best attested audience of Middle Egyptian literature, could have interpreted these texts’ royal characters from their own social, personal, and aesthetic standpoints.

The lecture begins in a tomb in Asyut, where over the course of several centuries visiting scribes built up a library of literary graffiti (including the aforementioned texts), before expanding to Deir el-Medina and Thebes, where other scribes read these same poems and occasionally wrote down their thoughts about them. I suggest that these poems allowed scribes to see themselves in the king and the king as one of them, as well as explore the ideological implications, both normative and subversive, of the ability of non-royal readers to identify with the person of the king. This exploration of receptions of kingship by non-royal readers contributes to ongoing discussions within Egyptology about bottom-up and top-down approaches to ancient Egyptian kingship.

Speaker’s Bio

Margaret Geoga is Assistant Professor of Egyptology at the University of Chicago and a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography. Her research focuses on ancient Egyptian literature, scribal culture, textual transmission, and reception in both ancient Egypt and later periods. Maggie earned her PhD in Egyptology from Brown University, where she also completed a concurrent MA in Comparative Literature. Maggie is currently working on a monograph on the reception history of the Middle Egyptian poem The Teaching of Amenemhat. She also has an ongoing project on Jean Terrasson’s 1731 novel Séthos, whose depiction of Egypt strongly influenced numerous eighteenth-century authors, artists, and thinkers, and still underlies beliefs about ancient Egypt today.