Examples of “Topics in Turkish Studies”
Below are examples of courses that have recently been taught in the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages and which may be given – in an updated and revised form – in either MES4270 or MES 4280. These courses are related to ongoing research activities in the Department. Depending on the availability of faculty staff and their current research interests, other themes may also be offered.
"Turkish Intellectual History"
This class provides an introduction to the study of Turkish intellectual history from the late Ottoman period until today. The syllabus will contain both primary and secondary literature—readings both by and about Turkish intellectuals. The course approaches “intellectuals” in a broad sense, reflecting the contested and evolving nature of the term. Consequently, it will not only include intellectuals who have identified with the concept’s enlightenment roots—the novelists, poets, journalists and commentators who saw themselves as the vanguard of their country, and who sought to fashion it into a modern, secular and ethnically homogeneous nation-state—but also figures who consciously resisted and attempted to re-shape that ideal, from the Islamic thinker Said Nursi to the Kurdish movement leader Abdullah Öcalan. We will also discuss so-called “secondary intellectuals” or the “professional intelligentsia”: lawyers, politicians, and teachers whose thought was more embedded in quotidian affairs, and who thus contributed to making the ideas of the public intellectuals practicable. In the process, we will evaluate different theoretical approaches to intellectuals, from Shils and Habermas to Foucault and Deleuze, in order to understand whether and how Turkish intellectuals matter.
Students will gain familiarity with several of Turkey’s most important thinkers and learn to evaluate their impact on Turkish political, cultural, and legal life from the late Ottoman period until today. The syllabus will be flexible in order to allow students with Turkish skills to read some texts in the original and thus acquire a stronger grasp on older and/or more specialized registers of the language. Students will also become familiar with major theoretical approaches to the study of intellectuals.
"Ideologies and movements in modern Turkey"
This class provides advanced students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in several of the most important ideological tendencies and figures in Turkish history. The syllabus will encompass both primary and secondary literature. It will cover ideological developments somewhat chronologically, beginning with the synthesizing “Young Ottomans” and nationalist “Young Turks” of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, continuing with the Kemalist ideas of the 1920s and 1930s, and moving from there to some of the Fascist, Socialist, Communist, Liberalist, Islamist, and Conservative thinkers of the World War Two and Cold War periods. Finally, we will consider ideological shifts that have occurred during Turkey’s troubled liberalization period in the 1990s and 2000s. Emphasis will be placed on contextualizing Turkish ideological developments within wider regional and global trends. We will also examine the structures and strategies of the political parties and civil society organizations within which key ideological trends have been developed and transformed over several decades.
Students will gain familiarity with key trends in Turkish political ideologies and the organizations and networks they have given rise to. The syllabus will be flexible in order to allow students with Turkish skills to read some texts in the original and thus acquire a stronger grasp on older and/or more specialized registers of the language. Students will also become familiar with major theoretical approaches to the study of ideologies.
"Introduction to Turcology"
This course focuses on the major characteristics of the Turkic languages and their internal classification, the main differences between the main branches, theories concerning genetic relations with other languages, the diffusion of the Turkic peoples, especially in the pre-Islamic period, and Turkic literary languages and literatures in the Middle Ages. In addition, topics central to contemporary Turcological research can be covered.
Participants will acquire an overview of the Turkic languages and their internal relationships, as well as the history of the Turkic peoples, especially from the Pre-Islamic period. Topics central to contemporary Turcological research can be identified and discussed.
Ottoman was the language of the Ottoman Empire from the 14th century until the Turkish language reform in 1928. Ottoman is characterized by strong influences from borrowed elements of Arabic ad Persian origin, and has a rich literature. Ottoman was written with Arabic letters. The course provides a survey of the characteristics of this language in comparison with modern Turkish.
Participants will become familiar with reading Ottoman texts in Arabic script, and with the orthographic principles that offer an indication of the state of the language in the 14th century and its subsequent development.
“Ottoman Divan Poetry”
The course gives an introduction to the poetry that was written at the court of the Ottoman Empire. As opposed to popular poetry, this Divan poetry was written according to the formal principles of Persian poetry, whereby the rhythm pattern is created through the interaction of short vs. long syllables in a verse (aruz). Most of the course texts will be read in their Latin transcription.
Participants will become familiar with the characteristics of Ottoman poetical language, especially the integration of foreign (lexical, morphological and syntactic) linguistic elements, which have been borrowed from Arabic and Persian. They will also build knowledge of relevant literary subjects such as sufi thematics, panegyrics and love poetry, as well as the Arabic-Persian metrical tradition and the main poets of the Ottoman Golden Age.
Çhaghatay, a Turkic language more directly developed from Old Turkic and Old Uighur than is the case with Ottoman, was a literary language and lingua franca for the Turkic peoples in Central Asia and Russia from the 15th century until the end of the 19th century, and has a very rich literature. This course is an introduction to the Çhaghatay language and literature, with the main focus being on the Golden Age of the 16th century. The texts are read in their Latin transcription. The course will be given primarily to master’s students specializing in Turkic languages outside Turkey.
Participants will acquire knowledge of the differences between the Çhaghatay and Ottoman languages and the historical reasons for these differences. The course offers a survey of the lines of development towards modern Uighur on the one hand, and Uzbek on the other, and provides insight into the thematics of Golden Age literature and the history of Çhaghatay literature in general.