A Tearful and Busy Mother
An Approach to the Construction of Motherhood through the Study of a Mesopotamian Baby Incantation
Keywords:Motherhood, gender, baby incantation, Mesopotamia, crying, emotions
As a way to explore certain aspects related to the construction of motherhood, and by extension of an ideal of femininity in ancient Mesopotamia, in this article we examine a first millennium BCE baby incantation known to us thanks to two duplicates found in the city of Assur. More specifically, we concentrate on the two references to the mother in this text. In the first one the mother herself cries when she sees that she cannot stop her baby’s crying. In the second one the mother is presented as unable to attend to the work she has to do because of the baby’s crying. In our analysis we argue that both references underline important pillars in the construction of femininity. On the one hand we emphasise that the crying of the mother can be read, at least partially, as an empathetic reaction. On the other, we defend that the busy mother in the text embodies the ideal of the industrious woman – in contrast to the negative archetype of the lazy woman, a frequent trope in Sumerian and Akkadian literature.
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