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Invitation to World Literature

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The Epic of Gilgamesh (30:00)

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This video introduces the earliest work of literature—The Epic of Gilgamesh. Learn how this ancient story still inspires readers and artists today, and how its themes of power and leadership, and friendship still resonate.

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Speakers in the video

Izumi Ashizawa
Izumi Ashizawa
Choreographer
Ms. Ashizawa was trained at the Kanze Noh school and at the Yale School of Drama. Besides dance choreography, she is also an actor, director, puppet/mask maker, and sculptress. Ashizawa's Gilgamesh won the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Faculty Achievement Awards Excellence in Directing and Excellence in Technology for her scenic design.
David Damrosch
David Damrosch
Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University
Dr. Damrosch is professor of comparative literature at Harvard University and the author of several books, including What Is World Literature?
Ben Foster
Ben Foster
Assyriologist, Yale University
Dr. Foster is professor of assyriology at Yale University, where he is also the Laffan Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature and curator of the Yale Babylonian Collection. His research interests focus on two main areas: Mesopotamian, especially Akkadian, literature, and the social and economic history of Mesopotamia.
Chad Gracia
Chad Gracia
Playwright and Dramaturg
Mr. Gracia is co-producer of Yusef Komunyakaa's Gilgamesh: A Verse Play. He's also a businessman with a successful blog, Actortips.com
Yusef Komunyakaa
Yusef Komunyakaa
Poet and Playwright
Mr. Komunyakaa served as the distinguished senior poet at NYU's Graduate Creative Writing program. In 1994, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems 1977-1989. In 2006, he wrote Gilgamesh: A Verse Play.
Azar Nafisi
Azar Nafisi
Author
Dr. Nafisi is the author of the international bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran. She also served as a visiting professor and executive director of cultural conversations at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC.
Linda Spaleny
Linda Spaleny
Filmmaker
Ms. Spaleny is a filmmaker and photographer who inherited her mother Ludmila Zeman's love of the Gilgamesh story.
Jim Starlin
Jim Starlin
Comic Book Artist
Mr. Starlin is an American comic book writer and artist who began working in the early 1970s. He is best known for his re-invention of the Marvel Comics characters Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock, and for creating or co-creating the Marvel characters Thanos and Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. Mr. Starling created a comic book series based on Gilgamesh — Gilgamesh II.
Christopher White
Christopher White
Middle School Teacher, Sun Valley Middle School
Mr. White has been teaching high school and middle school for the past six years. He is currently a social studies teacher at Sun Valley Middle School in Indian Trail, North Carolina. He often uses music in the classroom to engage his students in the material they are studying. Some of his hits include Fertile Crescent Rising, What the Hellenistic, and of course, The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Ludmila Zeman
Ludmila Zeman
Children's Book Illustrator
Ms. Zeman is a Czech-born filmmaker, illustrator, animator, and writer. She began her career building puppets and painting backgrounds for her father Karel Zeman's movies, including Mr. Prokouk the Acrobat. Ms. Zeman illustrated the Gilgamesh trilogy featured in The Epic of Gilgamesh, Episode 1 of this series. She has created films for Sesame Street and the National Film Board of Canada, and is an instructor at the Emily Carr College of Art in Vancouver, British Columbia.