Unit 1: Gilgamesh and the Hebrew Bible

Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI

Begin the course by sending your College email address to Diane Thompson. Include your name and the course you are in, so that I can send you your grades. If you do not send me your email address before posting your Introduction, I will delete ten points from your Introduction. I read my email almost every day and will respond promptly.

If you do not already have a College email account, go to Email Instructions  to learn how to open and use your NVCC student email account. Because of privacy regulations, I can only send your grades to a College email account, so please do this immediately!

Online text option: I have identified and linked to free online copies of all the required readings for this course. You can find them on the Course Materials Table on the Home Page. You may use these online texts instead of the print textbook set if you prefer. The problem with the online copies is that they are old translations and will not be as comfortable to read as more contemporary ones. However, the choice is yours. If you decide to work with the online texts, you will be responsible for finding substitutes if any of the web sites go down.

I have also included some excellent videos on our course topics from the Annenberg Invitation to World Literature project. You can find them listed on the Course Materials Table on the Home Page. I encourage you to watch them.

I will under NO CIRCUMSTANCES grade more than one piece of work in a single day, so you must plan accordingly.




In Unit 1 you will study an ancient written epic, Gilgamesh from Sumeria, and you will read Genesis from the Hebrew Bible. You will focus on the two related versions of the story of the Flood from the Hebrew Bible and Gilgamesh. You may also select ONE other narrative (i.e. Job or Exodus or whatever) from the Hebrew Bible to compare with Gilgamesh if you wish.

TASK 1. Write a letter introducing yourself to me and to the other students in the course. Tell us who you are, why you are interested in taking the course, your experiences with literature, with different cultures, with the Internet, and anything else you think is relevant. If you foresee any problems with the course, please explain what you think they may be. Let's get to know one another in this way, so that we can work together more comfortably. Your letter should be a page or two in length. Post this Introduction to the Introductions Forum on  Blackboard. For instructions on using Blackboard, see the Blackboard Instructions Page.

Blackboard does not work well with various word processors and browsers, so follow this procedure:

1. Write your Introduction on your own word processor. Edit for clear correct sentences and run a spell check.

2. Go to the word processor edit menu and choose the "select all" and "copy" options.

3. Open WordPad or NotePad and paste your work into that program.

4. Be sure your browser is either Internet Explorer OR Foxfire.

5. Open Blackboard, select Discussion Board, and then scroll down to the appropriate forum (in this case, Introduction).

6. Click on the highlighted forum name, select "Start New Thread," and then click your cursor in the new message box.

7. Go to the browser edit menu and select "paste." Your writing will now be in the message box. You can still edit it, clean up the formatting, etc. until you press the "submit" button. 

If your message does not show up after you submit it, click on the refresh or reload button of your browser to make it show. 

You will receive up to 50 points for posting this Introduction. 

***Please do not attach files; I will not open them and you will have to repost your message.

TASK 2. Read the Gilgamesh Study Guide, which will give you background information on Gilgamesh to help you to understand this ancient story. You may choose to watch the Gilgamesh Video instead. It contains the same information. See instructions for accessing it on the Course Materials Table on the 251 Home Page.

Option: watch the excellent video on Gilgamesh on the Annenberg Introduction to Literature series. Instructions for getting to the  videos are on the Course Materials Table on the 251 Home Page.


Norton: Read Gilgamesh (Volume A, 10 - 41). The introductions in the Norton texts are all excellent and will help you to understand each play, story or poem.

Option: Use the link to the etext of Gilgamesh on the Course Materials Table on the 251 Home Page.  If you are using the etext, pay extra close attention to the Gilgamesh Study Guide.

TASK 4. Read through all the Gilgamesh Activities. Then, select one of these questions to answer for Activity 1, prepare the Activity, and post it to the Blackboard Activity 1: Gilgamesh Forum. Worth up to 50 points.

NOTE ON PLAGIARISM: Since you are able to read what other students have written on the forums, any copying of their work without the use of quotation marks and proper attribution by name of the student will be considered plagiarism. Any plagiarized Activity will be given a grade of 0 and cannot be redone. If you find an idea in another student's essay that you would like to include in your discussion, you must quote it exactly (you can use copy/paste to do this), use quotation marks to set it off, and indicate the name of the student and the Activity in parentheses immediately after the quote. Further,  you must use this quote to develop some point of your own, not to simply imitate the ideas of the other student.  

If you find that all of your ideas on a topic have already been used by someone else, choose a different Activity.

ACTIVITIES: The Activity questions will help you to learn more about the literature you are reading. These questions do not have single, simple answers, but are designed to help you to think about what you are reading. Writing these Activities will help you to understand what you are reading and help prepare you to take the exams.

These Activity entries must be thoughtful; each one should be the equivalent of at least a full typed page or more in length (e.g. not less than 250 words) . They may be longer if you need to say more on your topic. You will not be able to do these Activity entries properly unless you have carefully read the assigned literature.

HINT: Read through the Activities Lists before reading the texts. Identifying interesting questions in advance will allow you to focus your most careful reading in your chosen Activities areas. 


100 Double Credit Options: If you select one of these and do it exceptionally well, you may get up to 100 points for the Activity. Of course it needs to be done in far more depth and detail and length than a regular single credit Activity. If I do not feel it is sufficient, I may either grade it down from 100 points or from 50 points, depending on whether I consider it a single or double credit piece of work.


includes the Activity question; responds clearly to the question; makes an interesting point; supports ideas with specific examples from the literature; correct, readable college level English; a full typed page or longer (this is at least 250 words, but you'll probably need more to do a good job)


somewhat off topic; a bit confusing or superficial; point not clear; problems with English mechanics; undeveloped or unsupported ideas


undeveloped; veering off topic; superficial or pointless; serious problems with English mechanics; shows little familiarity with  the literature


probably should have read the literature; half a page or less, seriously off topic, superficial or pointless; unreadable





 Read the Hebrew Bible Study Guide


Norton: Read the "Introduction," and the selections from the Hebrew Bible (Volume A, 52-103).  Pay special attention to "The Flood," since it is clearly related to the story of the flood in Gilgamesh. Or you might focus on another selection from the Hebrew Bible that will make an interesting compare/contrast with Gilgamesh. For example, Job is interesting in relation to Gilgamesh, since both deal with the wills of deities and the fates of human beings. Another good choice might be Jonah who, like Gilgamesh, tries to avoid divine will, or perhaps Joseph, who is a culture hero of the Hebrews, in contrast to Gilgamesh who is a culture hero of the Sumerians.

Option: Use the link to the etext of Genesis from the Hebrew Bible on the Course Materials Table on the 251 Home Page.  If you are using the etext, pay extra close attention to the Hebrew Bible Study Guide. You may wish to read other sections of the Hebrew Bible, but please do NOT use a Christian Bible to do so; the texts are actually somewhat different. This is a course in ancient literature and we want to use the ancient version of the bible for that reason.

Another Option: Watch this amazingly good free online course from Yale: Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) with Professor Christine Hayes. A wonderful free ecourse from Yale. You might just watch the opening sessions on Genesis or want to watch the entire course. She is a great teacher.


Read through all the Gilgamesh and Hebrew Bible Activities . Then, select one of these questions to answer for Activity 2, prepare the Activity, and post it to the the Blackboard Activity 2: Gilgamesh and Hebrew Bible Forum. Worth up to 50 points. 

TASK 8. Review all the Activities and the Study Guide for this Unit as you prepare to take Exam 1.

You will write Exam 1 in an NVCC Testing Center. Be sure to take the appropriate Exam Pass and a photo ID with you. Call the Testing Center first to make sure it will be open long enough for you to complete the exam.

If it is not possible for you to get to an NVCC Testing Center, you may arrange for a proctor at another location. If you need a proctor, go to the ELI Policies and Procedures Screen. Select the link for Examination Proctors, from the Table of Contents, for information on how to arrange for a proctor.

Worth up to 100 points. After you complete Exam 1, go on to Unit 2.

If you have not submitted (and had accepted)  all of Unit 1, including  Exam 1-- by your Inactive Students Dropped date, I will drop you from the course. Keep in mind that I only accept one piece of work at a time and I do not accept work that I consider "not college level" (see Course Guide).

(c) Thompson:11/15/1998; updated: 02/22/2011