Christie Carr

Title: Conceptualising the Erotic: Metaphor in the Sumerian “Love Songs”

University: University of Oxford

Supervisor: Jacob Dahl


My thesis analyses the metaphor of the Old Babylonian Sumerian “Love Songs”. Using an approach borrowed from cognitive linguistics, I will analyse the corpus using Conceptual Metaphor Theory. The theory mainly states that we understand abstract concepts through mappings from embodied experiences. The extensive metaphor in the Sumerian “Love Songs” give one of the fullest and extended representations of sexual domains of experience from the ancient Mesopotamian world, particularly desire, pleasure, and the erotic. Using modern approaches to metaphor, I hope to create a pragmatic and useful approach to the pervasive but sometimes obscure metaphor in Old Babylonian Sumerian literary texts. By analysing metaphor across the defined parameters of the erotic literary texts known as the Sumerian “Love Songs”, I will display the creativity and interaction that occurs with the creation and comprehension of certain metaphor, and also demonstrate that the analysis of figurative language can be used as tool for accessing culturally constructed domains of experience. The aim is to understand how desire, pleasure, allure, and the gendered human body were conceptualised at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC.

Keywords: Old Babylonian, Sumerian literature, metaphor