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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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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

I.    Introduction: What is (not) Turkish American Literature

The Significance of the United States in Turkish American Literature

Turkish American Literature and the “Transnational Turn”

A Gentle Empire

‘Unearthing’ and Embracing the Colonial Past

Beyond Empire: A Postcolonial Reading of Turkish American Literature

The Postcoloniality of Turkey

Turkish American Literature and the Postcolonial Imagery

Postcolonialism and Resistance: A Critical Perspective on Turkish American Literature

II.    Imaginary Spaces: Representations of Istanbul between Topography and Imagination

The Unplaceability of Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk: Overground and Underground Istanbul

“Safe Spaces of the Like-Minded”: Elif Shafak’s Cafés

Becoming Someone Else: Imitation and Truthfulness

‘Authenticity’ and Americanization

Integration and Segregation: Shall the Twain Meet?

The Ottoman Utopia

Utopia and Empire

Ottoman Utopia and Neo-Ottomanism

“Hrant Dink’s Dream”

Life in the Islands and in the Villages

Two Approaches to Cultural Identity

III.  Rewriting History, Rewriting Religion

Between Imperialism and “Wholesome Curiosity”: Halide Edip’s Benevolent America.

Imperialism and Humanitarianism

True Christians and very Unchristian Christians: American Humanitarianism in the Empire Territories

An Imaginary Us and an Imaginary Them

Ferries and Orphanages: Rewriting the Legacy of Edip’s Memoirs

Hullabaloo on the Bosphorus Ferry: The Development of Othering Strategies from “Borrowed Colonialism” to Nationalism

Ferries Rewritten: Elif Shafak’s “Life in the Islands”

Little Stories of Independence: Orphanages

Towards Ottoman Sisterhood

Women and Children First: Founding a ‘Subaltern’ Religion

Halide Edip: Rethinking Prophets and Fathers of the Nation

Sufi Madonna with Child

Undermining Myths of Masculinity and the “Threat of Islam”: Ali’s Religion of Love

A Religion of Love and a Religion of Fear: Mitigating the East/West Divide in the Aftermath of 9/11

IV.    Sufism in America and Turkey: A Transnational Dialogue

The American Journey as Sufi Journey: Emerson and Shafak

Two directions in the American Discourse on Sufism: Whitman and Shafak

The Transcendental Author: from National to Transnational Literature

Sufi Selves in comparison

The Forty Rules of Love: A Secular Awakening

Of Material Love and Ornamental Sufism

The Road to Baghdad Leads Somewhere: the (Ir)relevance of Sufism in Güneli Gün’s On The Road to Baghdad

Secularized Sufi elements in On the Road to Baghdad

Sufi Mysticism and North American Postmodernism: Barth, Barthes, Gün

V.   Ottoman Nature: Natural Imagery, Gardens, Wells, and Cultural Memory in Republican Turkey

American Nature and Turkish American Natural Symbolism

Fig Trees and Pomegranates: The Shaping of Post-Genocidal Armenian Identity in Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul

Fig Trees: Beyond Negative Identities

Pomegranates: Under two Empires

Birds of Migration: Ornithological Symbolism in The Bastard of Istanbul and The Saint of Incipient Insanities

Amnesiac and Memory-Bound Societies: The Bastard of Istanbul

The End of the Ottoman Garden: Alev Lytle Croutier’s Seven Houses

Space and Narrative in Seven Houses

The Patriarch’s Garden

The Matriarch’s Garden

Re-Orientalism, Hyper-Orientalism, and Acceptance: Problematizing Gardens in Seven Houses

Wells and National Amnesia: Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book

Troubled Gardens of Turkey and the World

Works Cited