Dear Colleagues and Students,
On Wednesday, April 18th, Asssistant Professor C. Ceyhun Arslan from Koç University will give the following talk, as part of the Center for Turkish Literature Speaker Series.
“Disguise, Ottoman Fashion, and the Wardrobe of Genres”
The talk will be in English and take place in A-130 at 16:40.
Refreshments will be available.
This talk undertakes a close and comparative study of the canonical Turkish work Hasan Mellah (1874) by Ahmet Midhat (1844-1912) and the canonical Arabic work Ḥadīth ʿĪsā ibn Hishām (What Isa ibn Hisham Told Us, 1898-1902) by Muḥammad al-Muwayliḥī (1858-1930), which were often studied as the first examples of the modern Middle Eastern novel. To reassess both the genres and periodizations that critics have used to categorize these texts, I first undertake a philological study of a term that I have often come across in these works, tebdil, which refers to both transmutation and a common practice in which someone changes clothes to move around in disguise. My talk then fleshes out a homology between characters in Hasan Mellah and A Period of Time who engage in tebdil by moving around under the guise of different clothes and the texts themselves which also “engage in tebdil” by circulating under the guise of different genres such as novel or nazire. Building upon this homology, I argue that Hasan Mellah and A Period of Time, contrary to the typical scholarly view, did not signify an epistemological break that cut ties with a classical past and generated new national subjects. I will conclude my talk by first emphasizing the importance of reassessing late Ottoman literatures that were written in different languages such as Armenian, Arabic, Turkish, and Karamanlı within a Mediterranean framework and then by discussing the contributions of my textual analysis to the latest debates in world literature and genre theory by positing genres as “clothes” or forms that catalyze textual circulations.