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Towards Turkish American Literature

Narratives of Multiculturalism in Post-Imperial Turkey


Elena Furlanetto

The author expands the definition of Turkish American literature beyond fiction written by Americans of Turkish descent to incorporate texts that literally ‘commute’ between two national spheres. This segment of Turkish American literature transcends established paradigms of immigrant life-writing, as it includes works by Turkish authors who do not qualify as American permanent residents and were not born in the United States by Turkish parents (such as Elif Shafak and Halide Edip), and on novels where the Turkish and Ottoman matter decisively prevails over the American (Güneli Gün’s «On the Road to Baghdad» and Alev Lytle Croutier’s «Seven Houses»). Yet, these texts were written in English, were purposefully located on the American market, and simultaneously engage the Turkish and the American cultural and literary traditions.

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IV. Sufism in America and Turkey: A Transnational Dialogue


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IV.   Sufism in America and Turkey: A Transnational Dialogue

“What problem is there in finding God? It only needs to be uprooted there and transplanted here.” Bulleh Shah

The previous section has begun to outline how the theme of Sufism74 allowed Turkish American authors to establish a compelling connection between the Islamic and the Christian traditions, laying emphasis on their compatibility. This chapter continues to investigate representations of Sufism as a transatlantic phenomenon and its potential as a salient ‘contact zone’ between Turkey and America. Previous chapters have demonstrated the uniqueness of Turkish American texts by comparing them to others that are more firmly (although not univocally) anchored in the Turkish literary scene, such as Pamuk’s novels. The present chapter asks to what extent Turkish American literature subscribes to American narratives and approaches, and does so by comparing texts by Elif Shafak and Güneli Gün with the work of authors who are unarguably rooted in the American canon, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and John Barth. Sufism lends itself particularly well to this task because of its distinct presence in both the American and Turkish American imaginations.

“There are many similarities between the rise of Sufism in Islam […] and Transcendentalism in the United States,” British Iranian scholar Farhand Jahanpour argues in his article “Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Sufi: From Puritanism to Transcendentalism” (6). In “Emerson and the Sufis,” George K. Rishmawi claims that Transcendentalists may...

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