“A single verse near the conclusion of 1 Samuel 17 mentions that after defeating Goliath, David took the giant’s severed head to Jerusalem (1 Sam 17:54). Literarily imagined transport and display of Goliath’s head encodes royal supremacy over monstrous bodies and casts the king as uniquely dominant over enemies at the physical extreme. This function of communicating royal and national power has parallels in the ancient Middle East and the ancient Mediterranean world. For example, various Gilgamesh describe the decapitation of Humbaba and the display of that giant’s severed head; this is paralleled by apotropaic use of Humbaba’s head as known from the Mesopotamian archaeological record. Similarly, Greek mythographers’ descriptions of Perseus’s defeat of Medusa are replicated in iconography by Gorgoneion architectural elements. In discussing the significance of displayed monstrous heads in literary and historical circumstances, I will engage Lacanian work on the semiotics of severed heads, theorizations of the monstrous, and recent scholarship on decapitation in the ancient Near East.”
It is my pleasure to invite you to our next event, to take place next Tuesday, February 5 at 5:00 p.m., in Swift 201. Our very own Maddy Richey will be offering a talk entitled Goliah among the Giants: Monster Decapitation and Capital Display. Here is Maddy’s fascinating abstract:
We hope to see you all there.
Delicious food and some refreshments will be available.