Theses Doctoral

Muslim Literature, World Literature, Tanpinar

Khayyat, Emrah Efe

Turkish humanist, literary historian, novelist, essayist and poet Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar's work (23 June 1901 - 24 January 1962) provides us with a unique opportunity to reframe the major questions of contemporary literary historiography, particularly those relating to the politics of literature and the history of religion. This dissertation surveys Tanpinar's writings in a variety of genres (fiction, poetry, literary history and theory) with a particular attention on his masterpiece, namely the novel /The Time Regulation Institute/. It demonstrates how Tanpinar's humanistic sensitivities, together with his dedication to social scientific scrutiny, results in a quest for an original, cross-disciplinary position for the critic, or at least an alternative "mood" in writing and representing. Alternatively, his is a quest for a new "method" for literature, literary criticism and cultural study. Among his company in this quest are nineteenth century Ottoman-Turkish revolutionaries, poets and novelists - such as the nationalist Namik Kemal, pious Ziya Pasha, populist Ahmet Midhat Efendi and suicidal Besir Fuad, to name some of the figures I discuss in this dissertation - alongside French symbolists, Paul Valéry in particular, but also philosophers such as Henri Bergson and even Martin Heidegger, alongside eminent sociologists August Comte and Emile Durkheim. Yet one would only do injustice to Tanpinar's thinking and writing unless one takes into consideration his reception of modernist writing at large, against the background of Melville's, T. S. Eliot's or Kafka's works; or his literary- historical and political position in contrast to Erich Auerbach's or Maurice Blanchot's. Tanpinar's account of the late Ottoman intellectual legacy and modern Turkish and European letters is most instructive today in understanding the social and political relevance of modern literary activity and its position vis-à-vis religion, particularly in the non-West. Accordingly he must also be read against the background of sociology of religion and art. Tanpinar's original "mode" of writing or "method" redraws the contours of the global expansion (or "globalization") of a particular "regime" of sensibility -- a particular way of seeing and saying, making and sharing, writing and reading -- i.e. an "aesthetic" regime, as Jacques Rancière has it. Tanpinar's elaborations on the social, cultural, theological and philosophical implications of this expansion -- particularly in the Ottoman world and later the Turkish republic, but also in what he calls the "Muslim Orient" at large -- leads to the discovery of certain zones of indistinction or ambivalence ("duplicitous" spaces, as Tanpinar has it) not only between religion and literature, but also between literature and social sciences. This enables him to "critique" social scientific writing literarily, i.e. through specifically literary writing in the novel The Time Regulation Institute. But he also critiques literary and philosophical writing with social scientific scrutiny not only in The Time Regulation Institute but also in his theoretical writings and his history, in his essays and his Nineteenth Century Turkish Literature. He thereby postulates a concept for the political history of literature on a global scale that in turn scrutinizes the relationship between writing beyond genres and religion. Tanpinar the literary historian was hired in the late 1930s to establish Turkish philology at Istanbul University, together with Auerbach who was hired to establish Romance philology at the same institution. Auerbach, whose literary historiography displays a similar attention to the history and politics of representation in the Judeo-Christian tradition, wrote his most influential works during his Istanbul exile. Given Tanpinar's alternative focus on the question of verbal arts and representation in the "Muslim Orient," reading Tanpinar and Auerbach together produces a more complete picture of the stakes of a world literature in this dissertation. Finally, to address the relevance of Tanpinar's writings to contemporary scholarship with clarity, this dissertation recontextualizes Tanpinar's thinking and his unvoiced disagreements with Auerbach, among others, against the background of the productive tension between Jacques Rancière -- "the humanist" of the dissertation who often traces back his literary thinking to Auerbach -- and Pierre Bourdieu -- "the social scientist" here whose thought is very much imbedded in the sociological tradition extending from Comte to Durkheim.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Robbins, Bruce William
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 3, 2014