CSSH Seminar Series: From Sentimentality to Materiality: The Ottoman Novel Between Text and Book, Etienne E. Charrière

Author: CSSH
Time: 16:00
Location: SOS 104



When we discuss the development of a culture of the novel in the late Ottoman Empire, it appears crucial to emphasize that the emergence of this particular genre in the largest urban centers of the Empire in the second half of the nineteenth century was determined by two crucial parameters. First, the development of the Ottoman novel constituted a truly trans-communal phenomenon and was the product of a space marked by an uncommonly dense traffic in languages and scripts, where literature was written, published, consumed, performed, and translated in multiple languages and where cultural practices therefore cut across communal boundaries. Second, the emergence of the genre in this complex cultural landscape was, in parallel, the product of transnational literary exchanges and, to a large extent, the result of the wide diffusion on the Ottoman literary market of works imported primarily from Western Europe and adapted to local needs.   

Analyzing various instances of translation, adaptation, reinterpretation and reformulation of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre 1788 novel Paul and Virginie in Ottoman-Turkish, Greek, Armenian, and Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), this talk examines the creative reception, in the Ottoman Empire of the nineteenth century, of the poetics and politics of sentimentality as they were originally codified in Western Europe during the previous century. In parallel, by highlighting the ramifications of the Ottoman circulation of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's text in the material realm, this talk explores the ways in which new frameworks for the study of the rise of indigenous novel-writing in the multilayered context of the Ottoman Empire can emerge when we approach the late Ottoman novel not exclusively as a textual corpus, but also as a commodity within a structure of economic and symbolic exchanges.