This session will explore the ethical dimensions of teaching the Middle East in a literature class to undergraduate students in the US. The speaker, Sevinç Türkkan, will draw on the experience of having taught a course on cross-cultural comparisons, in which she focuses on the literatures of the Middle East in relation to their European counterparts. Türkkan will take Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book as a point of departure and read the literatures of the Eastern and Western traditions, ancient and modern, in relation to this novel. This methodology is based on her argument that today teaching the Middle East demands a global context, emphasizing continuities, carefully explaining the reasons for discontinuities among literary traditions, and stressing interconnections and commonalities between what otherwise appears to be two isolated and alien worlds.
Türkkan situates her argument within debates around competing definitions and methodologies regarding what constitute World Literature. She analyzes the place of Middle Eastern Literature in the world literary paradigm and discusses the rhetoric of difference in relation to the Middle East, its literary and cultural texts. By stressing the importance of positionality, she goes beyond the focus on supposedly inherent cultural differences and the identity politics that have informed much of the work on the Middle East. Türkkan contends that frameworks that stress difference are inappropriate models for teaching the Middle East today when we face policies that strive to highlight, even invent, a whole panorama of difference and dichotomies to justify foreign policies of expansion and military intervention.
Sevinç Türkkan, visiting assistant professor of comparative world literature at Brockport, specializes in translation studies, comparative cultural studies, and modern Turkish literature. Ms. Türkkan has published on literary translation, reception, and cinema. Her most recent presentations addressed issues of translation and ethics in the context of world literature, translation imbalance, and global book markets. Her translations from Turkish and German appeared in the Best European Fiction series. She is the co-editor of Approaches to Teaching the Works of Orhan Pamuk. Currently, she is working on a book project entitled Other Orhans: Orhan Pamuk and his Translators.