Theses Doctoral

The Rhetoric of Authority in Ottoman-Arab Letters

Yasin, Veli N.

A comparative study of Arabic and Turkish literary modernity, this dissertation investigates the rhetoric of authority in Ottoman-Arab and -Turkish literary, literary-historical, and literary critical discourses in the nineteenth century. Bringing together examples of travelogue, fiction, literary history and criticism, I attend to the divided and divisive figures of the sovereign and the author in order to examine the crises and transformations of political and literary authority in this period. Through an extended conversation with the recent historiography of the late-Ottoman Empire, I illustrate how the divisions and dispersions of the author’s body in these texts mirror the diffusion, dispersion, and dissipation of sultanic sovereignty, slowly being disembodied from the Sultan’s body, and how this pairing, in turn, testifies to the contradictions that inhere in the emergent possibilities of popular, political and literary, representation. Juxtaposing (de)formations and representations of sovereign bodies with contemporary (de)constructions of authorial bodies, I claim that certain theological and political aspects associated with the sultan’s body henceforth come to be taken up by the body of the author. It is the concurrent excess and deficiency of this transfer and translation—and the force and weakness that is at once associated with the act of writing—that defines the modern crisis of representation. To make sense of the institution of modern literature in Arabic and Turkish—and of other new modalities of political and cultural representation—it is necessary to attend to the crises of late-Ottoman sovereignty, as well as to the avenues of enchantment and disenchantment thereby opened. In three chapters bookended with an introduction and conclusion, I focus on the works of Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq (1804-1886), Namık Kemal (1840-1888), Beşir Fuad (1852-1887), and Ibrāhīm al-Muwayliḥī (1844-1906) to articulate—through the coupling of the two bodies of the sovereign and the author—a critique of literary modernity in its relation to shifting discourses of political and literary authority.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Thesis Advisors
Anidjar, Gil
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 21, 2015