Kamil Aydin
(Atatürk University, Erzurum)
Turkey as Represented in English Literature of the time
A Ph.D. thesis completed at University of Warwick, 1994

A great deal of research aimed at examining textual representations of Turks and Turkey has concentrated upon the image of the Turk in centuries prior to the present one. (1) In the Renaissance, for example, the Turkish lands became a focus of curiosity for Europeans with respect to the inhabitants’ exotic costumes, beliefs and manners, and accounts stressed the Turks' wickedness, malice and violence which impressed and appealed to the western public. Playwrights such as Marlowe, Kyd and Shakespeare introduced Turkish figures in their works, using Turkish history as a source of material (2).

 As far as the twentieth century is concerned, a century which may be perceived as a new era in Turkish history and politics following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (1918) and the emergence of modern Turkey as a republic (1923), there is a lack of any critical comment stressing the possible revision of perceptions of the country in the light of such changes. Having looked at a series of texts that appear to represent Turkey in a negative light, from a non-European perspective, and which span several centuries, I have focused in this thesis on twentieth century images of Turkey in the West in popular fiction and travel writing, seeking to explore the continuity of earlier patterns of imagery.

 With the emergence of a non-European perception expressed by non-European readers, the canon of great European literary masters and discourses has been called into question, just as feminist criticism challenges a male orientation of cultural history, and post-modernist theorists such as Jacques Derrida (3) dispute the role of the reader. This thesis seeks to explore from a non-European perspective how a Western culture represents a non-Western culture in its own writings, since there seems to be a correlation between discourse and politics, more broadly between discourse and culture, which is manifest in any attempt by one culture to talk about another.

 In discussing the representation of a particular geography, culture or people various discourses appear in association with more familiar concepts such as power and knowledge. In several disciplines, ranging from sociology and anthropology to comparative literature, cultural and translation studies, these concepts have been disputed in various ways. Andre Lefevere and Susan Bassnett in Translation, Culture and History (1990) consider translation as the rewriting (4) of an original text. They also point out that rewriting has to do with power and manipulation as it reflects a given ideology and a poetics undergoing a process of transfer. While emphasising practical dimensions of cultural transference such as the introduction of new concepts, genres and devices in the evolution of a literature they also see rewriting as the shaping power of one culture upon another (5).)

 Bassnett takes a similar stance in her argument about translation, power and manipulation within the context of comparative literature, identity, gender and thematics in her Comparative Literature: A Critical Introduction (1993) (6). In reference to a recent map of Europe (7) which appears to contradict previous ones by including Turkic or ex-Soviet republics within Europe, she criticises the changes of image-making and of geographies:

The map-maker, the translator and the travel writer are not innocent producers of text. The works they create are part of a process of manipulation that shapes and conditions our attitudes to other cultures while purporting to be something else (Comparative Literature, 99).
Mahasweta Sengupta treats translation as mimicry of the dominant discourse (or the discourse of the coloniser) in reference to the translations of Rabindranath Tagore whose fame in Europe was limited by the way he could be made to function within the structure of imperial power during the colonial period of India. When Sengupta demonstrates that Tagore, translating his poetry from Bengali into English, made some deliberate changes mainly by altering tone, imagery and diction in order to suit the poetics of the target system without carrying the lyrical qualities of the originals into the English translation, she also emphasises that ‘his understanding of English language and literature was largely influenced by the aesthetic ideology of the Romantic and Victorian periods, the time when imperialism reached its high-water mark in the expansion of the British Empire’ (8). In other words, while he seems to be independent and free of the trappings of an alien culture and vocabulary by writing in the colloquial diction of the actual spoken word of his source language, he enters another context in his translation, a context in which his colonial self finds expression as ‘he fits perfectly into the stereotypical role that was familiar to the coloniser, a voice that not only spoke of the peace and tranquillity of a distant world, but also offered an escape from the materialism of the contemporary western world’ (‘Translation, Colonialism and Poetics’, 58). As a result, he was praised and awarded the Nobel Prize (1913) and hailed as a great poet until the time when he began to lecture against nationalism during  World War I, and his star began to wane in England and its dominions (Translation, History and Culture, 7). Translation Studies offers a useful way of considering the construction of cultures across geographical, historical, linguistic and cultural boundaries.
Throughout Western versions of the history of the Turks within the Oriental context, Turks have never been detached from other Islamic nations of the Middle East, although they  have completely different origins  geographically, with a different cultural, traditional, and above all, linguistic identity. They came to Anatolia from Central Asia nine hundred years ago with their Ural-Altaic language as distinct from the Indo-European or Semitic language groups. In her study of the Turks in the twentieth century, Eleanor Bisbee stresses their uniqueness:

The Turks' eye view of the world at any time is unique. They are an ancient people outside of the familiar Occidental classifications of Anglo-Saxons, Slavs, Goths or Latins; they came from the east but are not in the familiar Oriental classifications of Chinese or Mongols. They claim origin in an Asiatic region, between the Caspian Sea and the Mongolian desert, which is called 'Turan', and where evidences of civilisations, believed by some historians to be older than those of the Mesopotamian Valley, have been discovered. Turks are well seasoned in the ways of both the Orient and the Occident, because they formerly governed and partly inhabited all of eastern Europe south of Poland, the whole of Asia Minor and the Arab Middle East, and about half of North Africa. The most accessible stretch of boundary between Europe and Asia still runs through the land of the Turks, namely the famous Dardanelles-Bosphorus Straits. Turkey is a natural proving ground for a livable merger of Oriental and Occidental cultures (9).

A great many Western historical descriptions about the Turks have referred to the Ottoman Empire, though it has often been assumed that within such an empire there was a single national identity. As Andrina Stiles suggests:

In most western historical writings “Turkish” and “Ottoman” are used increasingly, as if they had the same meaning. But there is an important difference, since most Turks were not Ottomans (and most Ottomans were not Turks)(10).

 A similar attitude can clearly be perceived in the texts I have selected, where Turkey has largely been depicted, particularly with regard to the Ottoman Empire, as an Oriental or Middle Eastern country in cultural, religious and geographical terms although its European quarter, Thrace, is much larger than some EU countries such as Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland.

 The notion of 'representations' of the East applies to the ideas developed within contemporary literary and sociological theory. Its theoretical base stems essentially from the work of Michel Foucault, who has taken discourse analysis as a starting point for understanding the mechanism of the transfer of ideas and the relationship between ideology and other forms of power. When Foucault questions the growth of bureaucratic control over populations after the eighteenth century as something that requires more systematic forms of knowledge, he concludes that power and knowledge directly imply one another - that there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge: ‘What makes power hold good, what makes it accepted, is simply the fact that it doesn't only weigh on us as a force that says no, but that it traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourses’ (11).

 Foucault's discourse-analysis provides the basis for Said's study of Orientalism as a discourse of difference in which the neutral Occident/Orient dichotomy finds an expression in power relationships. With the increased involvement with Eastern countries the term “Orient” has acquired an ambiguous status. Not only did it take on a mystic dimension as the East became the object of literary fantasy, but also it appeared to be a concrete reality through which the West accumulated knowledge about the region. It is the problematic nature of that knowledge and its relation to western cultural and political ideology that have led to the current debate of Orientalism. Said examines Orientalism as a discourse which represents the exotic, erotic, strange Orient as a comprehensible, intelligible phenomenon within a network of categories, tables and concepts by which the Orient is simultaneously defined and controlled. He also argues that the Orientalist discourse is a persistent framework of analysis, expressed through theology, literature, philosophy and sociology, and that it not only expressed an imperial relationship but actually constituted a field of political power. It also creates a typology of characters, organised around the contrast between the West (Self) and the East (Other) in which the exotic Orient is represented in a systematic table of accessible information, and so, a typical cultural product of Western dominance.

 When Said expresses the opinion that there can be neither canonical and scientific nor unchangeable validity in the terms referring to geographical entities in the world, he goes back to the origin of the issue, and discusses the terms 'Orient' and 'Oriental' as the West's fictional construct which evokes negative connotations and mysteries with exotic fantasies, and above all, the Other (12). As opposed to the idealisation of Orientalism as a scholarly or scientific thinking about the Orient in the nineteenth century, he criticises Orientalism as a western phenomenon which can function in western literature as a mode of thought for defining, classifying, and expressing the presumed cultural inferiority of the Islamic Orient. In other words, it is a part of the vast control mechanism of colonialism, designed to justify and perpetuate European dominance.

 Although writing about the East has focused on self-investigation or the search for knowledge, discovering new truths about human nature, formulating a new humanism, or a new religious faith embracing all religions and all peoples, there is a way in which it can be read as a socio-economic process of geographical expansion. The nineteenth century aesthetic, philosophical and religious objectives were diverted by social (colonialist) ideology which could only be fulfilled by the political subjugation of the East. When Richard Burton examines the socio-economic and cultural structure of Egypt he cannot disguise his colonialist ideology and aspiration:

Hating and despising Europeans, they still long for European rule. This people admire an iron-handed despotism; they hate a timid and a grinding tyranny. Of all foreigners, they would prefer the French yoke - a circumstance which I attribute to the diplomatic skill and national dignity of our neighbours across the Channel (13).

With the same colonial mentality Eliot Warburton travelled to Turkey in 1843 and recorded his impressions as follows:

Shall we replace the ignorant and fanatical followers of the Crescent in the Province which became a kingdom through their imbecility; and allow them to interrupt our commerce here as they have been permitted to arrest the building of our church at Jerusalem. Heaven forbid! When the old man who has bravely won this fertile province ceases to exist, let his selfish power perish with him. Let England not prostitute her influence to restart emancipated Egypt to the imbecile tyranny of the Porte (14).

 Moreover, Alphonse Marie Louise de Lamartine built a different relationship between the East and the West in which the West became the bearer of the light of truth while the East was waiting to be saved from the dark abyss of ignorance and superstitions. His political involvement especially after 1840, led him to formulate a scheme which was presented under the guise of a 'Protectorate System' that justified colonialism (15). By the same token, Warburton defended the righteousness of colonialism in the Middle East from an English perspective:

English capital and industry would make Egypt a garden; English rule would make the fellah a freeman; English principles would teach him honesty and truth; and as to comparative advantages of Turkish or English politics to the people they are to influence, let the world be the judge between Asia minor and North America, between the influences of the Crescent and the Cross (The Crescent and Cross, 268).

 As far as religion is concerned it seems to be a commonplace of many Orientalists of different occupations to be highly critical of Islam and Muslims in order to substantiate the colonial ideology of the West and its applications in the Orient. David Roberts, the painter of idealised landscapes of classical ruins, expresses his frustration as dislike of Arabs:

Splendid cities, one teeming with a busy population and embellished with temples and worlds, now deserted and lonely, or reduced by mismanagement and the barbarism of the Muslim creed to a state as savage as the wild animals by which they are surrounded. Often have I gazed on them till my heart actually sickened within me (16).

When some Orientalists such as Norman Daniel and Charles Doughty seem explicitly to justify the identification of Europe (the Self) with Christianity they also represent Islam as the only religion of Asiatic barbarians (the Other) (17). Furthermore, Islam, associated with some weaknesses such as discouraging freewill and development, is designated as a cultural artefact against western norms and resistance to reform ignoring the fact that Islam, for Muslims, is primarily an ongoing concern to live in submission to the will of God. It is also pointed out that Christianity, being capable of invention and dynamic change, is superior. Besides Doughty's comments on the religious superiority of Christianity (18), Daniel makes a similar comparison with the political justification that 'the conviction of superiority arose from technologies and techniques of government, but it took the form of a belief in Christian superiority' (19). In his analysis of Orientalists such as Muir and Tisdall, whose main concern in their writings has been the comparative evaluation of Islam, Clinton Bennett remarks that they identify themselves with the tradition of complete confidence in Christianity’s provable superiority over Islam (20).

 In some cases such as Duncan Black Macdonald the pejorative depiction of Islam reaches to the extent that its prophet is characterised as a mad poet, the best of his Arabian kind, muddled in his recollections of the Jewish and the Christian faiths (21). A similar negative attitude concerning the prophet is implicitly reflected in H.A.R. Gibb’s version of Islam as he tends to define Islam as Mohammedanism (22). Discussing such critical representation of the prophet of Islam, Said states: ‘Since Christ is the basis of Christian faith, it was assumed...that Mohammed was to Islam as Christ was to Christianity. Hence the polemic name 'Mohammedanism' given to Islam, and the automatic epithet 'impostor' applied to Mohammed’ (23).

 It seems apparent that on the basis of the negative representation of Islam in the works of some Orientalists there is a tangible impact of previous images tracing back to the medieval sense of Islam associated with tyranny:

the Prophet of Islam was regarded in Medieval Europe as the Devil's son, the Devil incarnate, a false prophet and a charlatan. Islam, viewed as a politico-religious unit, which was how Europe, as Christendom, saw itself, was thus identified as the spiritual and political enemy against which Christian should fight (Victorian Images, 6-7).

Thomas Moore appears to be a typical example as he reveals a traditional western hostility to Islam in Lalla Rookh (1817) through the recreation of  medieval motifs of Mohammed as imposter, magician and sensualist (24).

 The similarities of attitude among early Orientalists were also manifested in paintings, as discussed by D.A. Rosenthal. He suggests that:

The flowering of Orientalist painting, then, was closely associated with the apogee of European colonist expansionism in the nineteenth century. Many of the French Orientalist painters undoubtedly agreed with the ideals of colonial officials, soldiers and adventurers in the Near East (25).
The increase of nineteenth century European interest (and later twentieth century American) in the Orient can be linked to the huge expansion of colonialism and other forms of domination over Asia and Africa taking place at that time. Not only was a systematic cataloguing of non-European peoples and their spoken languages needed as a means of control, but some knowledge of their civilisations was also necessary. By seeking to define and categorise other cultures, the colonisers ensured that the natives themselves would learn about their own civilisations through the centre of European scholarship.



1-Numerous Western writings about Turkey usually discuss Western perceptions through the works of preceding centuries. A common motif in these works is a version of Turkish history, which is mainly characterised by various stories of wickedness and barbarity of the Ottoman Empire displayed in its wars against Europe throughout the centuries, as well as the traditional and religious life, manners and customs in royal palaces and the seraglio which, in many cases, have been coloured with eccentricities and bizarre fantasies. For further information, see: Berna Moran, A Bibliography of English Publications About the Turks from the !5th Century to the 18th Century (Istanbul: Istanbul Univ. Press., 1964); Fanny Davis, The Ottoman Lady: A Social History from 1718 to 1918 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986); George K. Rismawi, Oriental Elements in English Romantic Poetry: Shelley and Byron, Unpub. Diss. (Buffalo: State University of New York, 1983); Irene L. Szyliowicz, Pierre Loti and the Oriental Woman (London: Macmillan, 1988); Jale Parla, The Eastern Question and the Fortunes of the Turkish Myth in England and France, Unpub. Diss. (Massachusetts: Harvard Univ. Press, 1978); Paul James deGategno, The Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy and the Motif of the Foreign Observer, Unpub. Diss. (Pennsylvania: State Univ., 1975); Raphaela Lewis, Everyday Life in Ottoman Turkey (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1971); Yildiz Aksoy, The Turks in Eighteenth Century English Theatre Unpub. Diss. (Erzurum: Ataturk University, 1970).

2-See: Ahmed Alam El-Deen, A Critical Edition of Thomas Goffe's The Raging Tyrke, or, Baiazet the Second (1631), Unpub. Diss. (West Virginia: West Virginia Univ., 1984); Louis Wann, "The Oriental in Elizabethan Drama" in Modern Philology XII (January, 1915), pp. 163-187 and "The Oriental in Restoration Drama" in The University of Wisconsin Studies in Language and Literature 2 (Madison, 1918), pp. 163-186; Orhan Burian, "Interest of the English in Turkey as Reflected in English Literature of the Renaissance" in Oriens 5 (1952), pp. 209-229; Rana Kabbani, Europe's Myths of the Orient (London: Macmillan, 1986); Simon Shepherd, Marlowe and the Politics of Elizabethan Theatre (London: the Harvester Press, 1986); Suheyla Artemel, The Idea of Turkey in the Elizabethan Period and in the Early 17th Century with Special Reference to Drama, Unpub. Diss. (Durham: Durham University, 1966).

3-See: Anna Coote and Polly Pattullo, Power and Prejudice: Women and Politics (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1990); Elaine Showalter, “Towards a Feminist Poetics” in Modern Literary Theory ed. Philip Rice and Patricia Waugh (London: Edward Arnold, 1989), pp. 92-102; H. Eisenstein, Contemporary Feminist Thought (London: Unwin, 1984); Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978); Julia Kristeva, “A Question of Subjectivity: An Interview” in Women’s Review, no.12, pp. 19-21; M. Humm, Feminist Criticism: Women as Contemporary Critics (Sussex: Harvester, 1986); R. Brunt and C. Rowan, Feminism, Culture and Politics (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1982).

4-Literary criticism as interpretation, historiography, the prefatory introduction or the book review are other modes of rewriting that operate within constraints, such as those of patronage, poetics, the universe of discourse and the natural language in which they are written and, in the case of translation, especially, the original work itself. See: Andre Lefevere, “Why Waste Our Time on Rewrites? The Trouble with Interpretation and the Role of Rewriting in an ‘Alternative Paradigm’” in The Manipulation of Literature: Studies in Literary Translation ed. Theo Hermans (London: Croom Helm, 1985).

5-Susan Bassnett and Andre Lefevere, ed. Translation, History and Culture (London: Pinter Publishers, 1990), p.IX. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the text, by mentioning its title, 'Translation, History and Culture'.

6-Susan Bassnett, Comparative Literature: A Critical Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993). Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the texts, by mentioning its shortened title, 'Comparative Literature'.

7-It is a commercial map, but it may be evidence of thought patterns which are themselves the product of factors that have little to do with the geographical purpose of the maps. As Susan Bassnett observes ‘The Independent map offers a new enlarged version of Europe. This Europe does not stop at the Black Sea, the point generally regarded as the most easterly boundary in the twentieth century. Previous boundaries had been many and varied, depending on political as well as on linguistic criteria. The new Europe stretches out round the edges of the Black Sea, northwards through Georgia, southwards through Turkey, round and across to the Turkic republic of Azerbaijan, right over to the Caspian Sea. Suddenly Europe has stretched, changed direction, moved thousands of miles into what was once Asia. What are we meant to read into this revision of geographical, ethnic, religious and political boundaries? Are we to assume that because the former Soviet union was classified as a European state, now that it has ceased to exist its component parts are de facto part of Europe too? (though not all the component parts, by any means). Do the map-makers see the conferral of European status as a positive attribute? Are EEC states looking hungrily towards the natural resources said to lie beneath the soil of what were once termed Central Asian states?
 Besides, the Independent map-maker was so concerned with looking out to the Caspian Sea that Iceland has been cut off altogether. The small, Scandinavian island up in the North Atlantic has suddenly, like Atlantis, vanished without trace. Could such an omission have anything to do with the end of the Cold War, we may ask, and with the abrupt demise of Iceland's importance as a strategic base for the monitoring of Soviet military action? The omission was not remedied in the enlarged version of the map which followed the first one. One stroke of the pen added Azerbaijan and subtracted Iceland from what is now a Europe that stretches across a continent and a half. Only the southern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland appear. The whole bias of the map is away from Northern Europe towards those areas that were once part of the Roman Empire: Bithynia and Pontus, Cappadocia, Armenia, Colchis and Caucasus. The rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire is wiped away with this cartographical manipulation’. See: Susan Bassnett, Comparative Literature: A Critical Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), pp. 100-1.

8-Mahasweta Sengupta, “Translation, Colonialism and Poetics: Rabindranath Tagore in Two Worlds” in Translation, History and Culture, ed. Susan Bassnett and Andre Lefevere (London: Pinter Publishers, 1990), p. 57. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the text, by its shortened title, 'Translation, Colonialism and Poetics'.

9-Eleanor Bisbee, The New Turks: Pioneers of the Republic 1920-1950 (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1951), pp. 4-5.

10-Andrina Stiles, The Ottoman Empire 1450-1700 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1989), p.9.

11-Michel Foucault: Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977 by Michel Foucault ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), p. 119. Also see: Asaf Hussain, Robert Olson and Jamil Qureshi, ed. Orientalism, Islam and Islamists (Vermont: Amana Books, 1984); David Couzens Hoy, ed. Foucault: A Critical Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986); Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin, 1985; Ist pub. 1978), The World, the Text and the Critic (London: Faber, 1984), Culture and Imperialism (London: Chatto and Windus, 1993) and "Foucault and the Imagination of Power" in Foucault: A Critical Reader ed. David Couzens Hoy (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986); Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge trans. A M. Sheridan (New York: Pantheon, 1972); and Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison trans. A. Sheridan (New York: Pantheon, 1977).

12-Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin, 1985). Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the text, by mentioning its title, 'Orientalism'.

13-Richard Burton, Pilgrimage to Al-Madina and Meccah (London: Tylston and Edwards, 1893), pp. 17-8.

14-Eliot Warburton, The Crescent and Cross, or Romance and Realities of Near Eastern Travel (New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1845), p. 268. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the texts, by mentioning its shortened title, 'The Crescent and Cross'.

15-Alphonse Marie Lousie de Lamartine, Vues, discours et articles sur la question d'orient (Paris: Gasselin, 1840), pp. 31-32.

16-Cited by James Ballantine, The Life of David Roberts, R.A. (Compiled from his journals and other sources) (Edinburgh: A&C. Black, 1986), pp. 104-5.

17-Rana Kabbani, Europe's Myths of the Orient (London: Pandora Press, 1988). p. 106. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the texts, by mentioning its title, 'Europe's Myths of the Orient'.

18-Charles Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta (1888) 2nd. ed. (London: Cape, 1921).

19-Norman Daniel, Islam, Europe and Empire (Edinburgh: EUP, 1966), p. 246.

20-Clinton Bennett, Victorian Images of Islam (London: Grey Seal Books, 1992), p. 146. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the texts, by mentioning its shortened title, 'Victorian Images'.

21-Asaf Hussain, Robert Olson and Jamil Qureshi, ed. Orientalism, Islam and Islamists  (Vermont: Amana Books, 1984), p.3.

22-H.A.R. Gibb, Muhammedanism, fifth edn. (New York: Oxford Univ. Press., 1962) in Studies on the Civilisation of Islam eds., Stanford J. Shaw and William R. Polk (Boston: Beacon Press, 1962).

23-Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin, 1978), p. 60. Also see Norman Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (Edinburgh: University Press., 1960).

24-Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookh: An Oriental Tale (London: Hurst, 1817).

25-Donald A. Rosenthal, Orientalism, the Near East in French Painting (1800-1880) (New York: Rochester, 1982), Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, p. 9.