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Recent Pasts, New Cities, Old Territories: Breaks and Transformations in Early Modern Anatolian Literature

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Organizer: Oscar Aguirre Mandujano

Co-Organizer: Selim Kuru

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From the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, Anatolian and the Middle Eastern cities and territories changed hands: the Ottomans expanded their dominions into the Balkans, south and eastern Anatolia, as well as Northern Syria and Egypt. These major political transformations occurred alongside similar linguistic shifts and literary changes. New genres of “high literature” (edebiyat) emerged in Ottoman Turkish, Persian and Arabic through a burgeoning elite formation that established linguistic communities, who, in turn,  co-existed and interacted, changed with and transformed local literary traditions in Armenian, Greek, Ladino and Hebrew. Some of the focus of these new literatures rested on the specific circumstances of early Modern Anatolia. Scholars, poets, and Sufis used, reinvented, and adapted long-lived literary and philosophical traditions of the Islamic, Classical, and Christian worlds. As the new literature in Turkish gained a domineering position, in part due to an emerging Rumi identity crafted through a new Ottoman courtly culture, Arabic, Persian, Armenian, Greek, and Hebrew, among other languages, reacted to and transformed through this development. Despite the fact that changes and interactions between the langauges and communities of Anatolia and the Middle East are now recognized in the scholarship, they continue to be studied in isolation, and each through diverse and distinct methodologies. This seminar aims at creating a platform for scholars who work on different linguistic experiences in “high literary media'' in order to better understand the breaks and transformations in early modern Anatolian literature, history, and culture.

The seminar seeks to examine the change and formation of new literate and literary communities in Anatolia and to bring together scholars working on the literary and historiographical transformations during the thirteenth, fourteenth and sixteenth centuries in Anatolia and other Ottoman territories to critically examine the emergence of new genres, the creation of new literary communities, and the interaction between old and new literary traditions. We propose to do so by focusing on three topics that were central to scholars of early modern Anatolia: cities, history, and spirituality.


Topics and focus may include:

-Adaptation and transformation of tradition, genres, and imagery

-Poetry, Sufism, and the urban experience

-Intercommunal interactions, identities, and religious difference

-Studies of rhetoric and poetics, commentaries, and dictionaries 

-History, historiography, and chronicles studied as literature or as edebiyat

-Spiritual exercises, Sufi poetry, and advice literature


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