Ottoman Literature as World Literature: Armenian and Turkish Fiction in Comparative Perspective

Picture of Mehmet in a light blue collared shirt.

About the Speaker:

Mehmet Fatih Uslu is assistant professor of Turkish Language and Literature at Koç University in Istanbul. He is the author of Çatışma ve Müzakere: Osmanlı’da Ermenice ve Türkçe Dramatik Edebiyat (Conflict and Negotiation: Armenian and Turkish Dramatic Literature in the Ottoman Empire” (2014). He is also the co-editor of the volume Tanzimat ve Edebiyat: Osmanlı İstanbul’unda Modern Edebi Kültür (Tanzimat and Literature: Modern Literary Culture in the Ottoman Istanbul), with Fatih Altuğ (2014). He has translated numerous works of literature and humanities from English, Italian, and Armenian into Turkish. 

About the Talk:

This talk aims to analyze the development of Armenian and Turkish novel writing in Istanbul between 1896-1915 from a comparative perspective. In this period, novel writing as a craft acquired a certain ripeness in both languages. At the same time, growing conflicts between different ethnic and religious communities of the Ottoman Empire took the stage. Therefore the most important Ottoman novels emerged in an atmosphere of deep and widespread chaos and unrest. Focusing on the foremost novelists of the period (Krikor Zohrab, Zabel Yessayan, Halit Ziya, Mehmet Rauf, and so on). I will endeavor to display and explore the complex relationship between this phenomenon of the rise of the novel in the Empire and the harsh political situation, which includes ethnic conflicts apart from many others. In this way, I will ask questions such as: What were the parallelisms and differences between Armenian and Turkish novels that were produced in Istanbul? How did political concerns and attitudes influence the novel writing in the different languages of the Empire? Did Turkish and Armenian writers have any kind of literary or social interaction that informed their literary style and approach?