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Richard Cooke Richard Cooke i(A119379 works by)
Gender: Male
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Most Referenced Works

Awards for Works

The Crankhandle of History : Bruce Chatwin's Song to the Songlines 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: The Monthly , September no. 137 2017; (p. 35-42)

'Epic of Gilgamesh” is Google’s answer to “what is the oldest known literature”. Unknown scribes in the city of Ur picked the poem out in cuneiform letters some 4500 years ago. These clay tablets preserved an older oral tradition, but that part of the story is usually left out. Instead, the Mesopotamian epic fits easily into that cartoonish diagram of the Ascent of Man, where civilisation means writing, a sequence of metals and a procession of capitals: Memphis, Babylon, Athens, Rome.

'Compare this lineage to the ceremonial songs of Aboriginal Australia. Their absolute vintage is unknowable, but the best estimates run to at least 12,000 years old. At this distance in time, the study of literature needs not just linguists but geologists. There are songlines that accurately describe landscape features (like now-disappeared islands) from the end of the Pleistocene epoch. Their provenance may stretch even further back, all the way into the last ice age. They are also alive. The last person to hear Epic of Gilgamesh declaimed in her native culture died millennia ago. Songlines that may have been born 30,000 years ago are being sung right now.'   (Introduction)

2018 shortlisted Walkley Award Walkley-Pascall Award for Arts Criticism
Last amended 30 May 2018 12:49:36
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