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Mortuary and Literary Laments

Mortuary and Literary Laments

A Comparison

(p.83) 6 Mortuary and Literary Laments
Ancient Egyptian Literature
Roland Enmarch
British Academy

‘Laments’ have long been recognised as an important and long-lived part of Egyptian written culture, appearing in widely differing contexts, including as captions to mourning scenes in tombs from the Old Kingdom onwards, as liturgical laments uttered by Isis and Nephthys in mortuary texts, and as an important component of the literary style of Middle Egyptian pessimistic literature. The heterogeneous nature of these sources presents problems in arriving at a satisfactory definition for a ‘lament’ genre as a whole, and raises questions as to just how closely related these different written traditions are. While the style of literary laments in particular has often been described as originating from funerary dirges, the evidence for this is chronologically problematic and other generic influences have alternatively been posited. This chapter establishes stylistic and structural criteria to enable a more detailed analysis of the different kinds of lament, and their possible interrelationship.

Keywords:   lament, lamentation, funeral, mortuary liturgy, mourning scene, Isis, Nephthys, literature

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