in Contemporary Olson
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The ancient Sumerians, who inhabited that part of southern Mesopotamia now known as Iraq, displayed in their arts, writing, and technical and civic accomplishments the first signs of a mature civilisation. Charles Olson's 1951 essay 'The Gate and the Center' argues that Sumer is the model for polis; from the date of the first city, 3378 BC. Olson drew on the 'ancient knowledge' D. H. Lawrence described in Fantasia of the Unconscious and anticipated 'advances in depth psychology, all the good work that has been done by attention to the soul'. In 1951, when he was struggling with rewrites of the 'Human Universe' essay, Olson was much concerned with the question of humanism, the human and its limitations. A long letter on the Jews and mythology remained unsent, possibly because he realised that it comes dangerously close to the anti-Semitism he criticises elsewhere.

Editor: David Herd


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