Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, German, University of Michigan

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2012
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Comparative Literature, University of California / Berkeley
Translation and the Production of Modernity: A Turkish German Comparative Analysis

Translation played a significant role in the development of Turkish and German modern literary and national cultures, yet little scholarship has focused on the historical intersections between these traditions. My dissertation develops a comparative analysis beginning with important paradigm shifts in translation in18th century Germany and the 19th century Ottoman Empire. Working against models of influence that predominate in Turkish scholarship, I situate translations between German and Turkish within a historical conception of world literature. My approach gains significance through case studies that consider late Ottoman translations of Goethe (1880-1911) in relation to Goethe’s earlier reworkings of Ottoman poetry in the West-East Divan (1814), a text central to his evolving conception of Weltliteratur. By reading translations across time periods in dialogue, I foreground a Goethean understanding of world literature as a method of critical reading that gains value through international perspective. By showing how Ottoman translations participated in processes of world literature, I counter readings of Turkish literature as derivative to a Western model due to its inception through translation. As Turkish Republican criticism of Ottoman engagement with Western European source texts has been crucial to perceptions of a belated Turkish modernity, my dissertation also considers the importance of the state funded “World Literature” translation series (1940-1966). In particular, I show how Sabahattin Ali’s engagement with German literature for this series criticizes Kemalist portrayals of “the West” as a monolithic entity, and counters Republican understandings of world literature as an established canon of Western texts. My focus on Ali establishes a continuity to Ottoman cultural movements Kemalism set itself against, and provides a connection to contemporary German translations of Turkish literature, for which Ali has been an important figure.