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Dr. Ainsley Hawthorn


Vision in Mesopotamia

My project examines depictions of visual activity in Mesopotamian literature and art. By analyzing instances of vision verbs compiled from the Sumerian and Akkadian literary corpora, the study establishes more precise definitions for these verbs and examines differences in their usage depending on whether their subjects are human or divine. While characterizing human beings primarily as passive observers, the literary materials credit gods with a powerful gaze that has the capacity to affect its object. This influential gaze is part of a system of outward-moving divine powers that include radiance and speech. The project will use the operation of vision in Mesopotamian literature as a basis for examining portrayals of the gaze in Mesopotamian art, will address its potential implications for Mesopotamian theology and ontology, and will situate it within the broader discourse of sensory studies in the humanities.