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The Teaching of King Amenemhat I
Commentary. General issues

Authorship: concepts of 'origin', 'originality', 'closed text' and 'authorship' belong to a knot of related assumptions in modern consumption and production of writing For the authorship of the Teaching, compare the following two assertions:

  1. The original Egyptian readership believed that King Amenemhat I was the author Lichtheim 1973: 138, n.1 'as regards the audience of the Middle Kingdom, it seems to me probable that it took the work to be the genuine testament of King Amenemhat; for pseudepigrapha would lose much of their effectiveness if they were not, at least initially, believed to be the works of the men whose name they bore'
  2. The modern concept of author is a category created by the facility of the printing press Cerquiglini 1989, on 'medieval authorship' (English translation from pages 24-25) 'Only at the turn of the 19th century does the notion of literary property acquire the force of law; legislation then stipulates that every text is first of all the matter of the person who conceived it: origin and paternity The author is not a medieval concept.'

Why do we feel the need for an author?
Consider the influence of economic individualism, and the related theory of the genius.

A manuscript of the late New Kingdom (about 1550-1069 BC) includes a passage on the power of writing, in which it is said that the Teaching of King Amenemhat I was written by a man named Khety for King Senusret I.
How should we 'read' such an explicit statement? What is the relation of the New Kingdom (about 1550-1069 BC) Egyptian to the past?

Before taking the ascription to Khety at face value, consider other pre-industrial ascriptions of authorship:

Cerquiglini 1989: 49-52 on the 'modern invention' of the 'medieval author' Marie de France out of internal (not paratextual) references. What are the differences and similarities between the case of 'Marie de France' and the construction of an author 'Khety' for Middle Egyptian compositions ?


 

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