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Fellows 2021/22

Burcu Alkan

received her PhD at the University of Manchester (2009). Her thesis was published as Promethean Encounters: Representation of the Intellectual in the Modern Turkish Novel of the 1970s (2018). After having worked at various universities, she took up a post as senior research fellow at Justus Liebig University on a fellowship supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2017-2020). She specialises in comparative literature with a focus on the modern Turkish novel. She is the co-editor of a two-volume reference work: Dictionary of Literary Biography: Turkish Novelists Since 1960 (2013 & 2016). She also co-edited a volume titled Turkish Literature as World Literature (2021), which locates Turkish literature in the world literary scene as a source of influence and challenges the conventions in world and Turkish literary studies. Alkan is currently working within the field of medical humanities with an interest in the relationship between literature and psychiatry, sciences of the mind, and mental health. In the academic year 2021/22, she is a EUME Fellow.

From Pseudo-Medicine to Freudo-Marxism: The Impact of Psychoanalysis on the Twentieth Century Turkish Novel

This project examines the impact of psychoanalysis as an epistemological field on the modern Turkish novelistic imagination and investigates the transcultural manifestation of psychoanalytical theory in the Turkish literary intellectual sphere. It seeks to go beyond the “psychology of literature” or “literary psychology” approaches towards a new interdisciplinary understanding of literature and psychiatry from the vantage point of the fields of medical humanities and transcultural psychiatry.
The study begins with the introduction of psychoanalytical discourse into the medical field in Turkey and explores the ways in which it evolves, corresponding to the global developments, as an ideational theme in the Turkish novel. The project thus investigates how psychoanalytical theory became a significant contact zone to discuss broader issues beyond psych-fields. Several works are chosen as case studies in order to discuss “the transcultural impact of psychoanalysis on the modern Turkish novel from pseudo-medicine to Freudo-Marxism,” such as those of Peyami Safa (1800-1961), Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar (1901-1961), Attilâ İlhan (1925-2005), and Leyla Erbil (1931-2013).

Hala Auji

is Associate Professor of Art History at the American University of Beirut where she teaches courses on Middle Eastern and Islamic art. Her work explores the visual dimensions of modernity in the eastern Mediterranean, including print culture, book history, museum practices, and portraiture. Her first book, Printing Arab Modernity: Book Culture and the American Press in Nineteenth-Century Beirut (Brill, 2016) explores the growing significance of the aesthetic dimensions of print culture in Ottoman Syria and its contribution to wider discourses on socio-cultural modernization and reform. She has also published research in numerous places, including Review of Middle East Studies, Visible Language, and the Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication. As a EUME Fellow 2021/22, she is working on her second book, tentatively titled Pictorial Impressions: The Rise of Printed Portraiture in the Arab World (ca.1870-1910), which considers the visuality, makers/making, social significance, and theoretical framing of portraiture in Arabic publications from fin-de-siècle Beirut and Cairo.

Pictorial Impressions: The Rise of Printed Portraiture in the Arab World (ca.1870-1910)

Auji’s current book project explores early examples of printed portraiture (ca. 1870-1910) produced in the interconnected urban centers of Ottoman Beirut and Cairo, both of which were key publishing and cultural centers amongst multi-confessional Arab intellectuals. Pictured in print—as engravings, woodcuts, and lithographs—portraits of historical figures, politicians, dignitaries, and scholars appeared in books, periodicals, and quotidian media due to the flourishing of a regional Arabic publishing industry. Produced by and for everyday Arabic-speaking audiences as part of their lived experiences of capitalist modernity, these manufactured images found their way to varied public venues, from crowded street-side cafes to the walls and shutters of shopfronts. This book focuses on four key issues pertinent to these printed portraits at the time: their multifaceted visual conventions, producers’/production practices, significance in the public sphere (and the image of public intellectuals), and intersections with knowledge production and contemporaneous theories on image-making/visuality. In so doing, this book challenges the disciplinary boundaries between art, design, science, and printing history, and problematizes representation’s traditional art history that has focused on a division between “high” arts and quotidian material culture. Concurrently, this project endeavors to contribute an interdisciplinary art historical approach to a field that has been frequently limited to bibliographic, historical, and literary studies.

Zahiye Kundos

is a research and teaching fellow at the Arab-Jewish Cultural Studies Department of Tel Aviv University. She co-organizes the Arabic Forum of fellows and students, which is supporting Middle Eastern and Palestinian scholarship in the humanities. With this same focus, she also previously co-directed the initiative “Humanities in Conflict Zones” at the Minerva Humanities Center (2016-2019). In 2018, she received her PhD from the School of Cultural Studies at Tel Aviv University on Modernist Islam and the critique of modernity. She is currently interested in rebuilding the bridges between theological studies and modern Arabic literature. In 2005, she was the Palestinian resident artist in the International Writing Program in Iowa, USA. She began her EUME fellowship virtually in the academic year 2020/21 and continues being an EUME Fellow in 2021/22, affiliated with the Seminar für Semitistik und Arabistik at the Freie Universität Berlin and Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies at Freie Universität Berlin.

The Loss of the Muftī: Reimagining the Afterlife of Muḥammad ‘Abduh’s Islamic Modernism in Arabic Literature 

What starting point can we find for a discussion of being Muslim as a moral way of life in these times when the Arabic discourse is bruised and stuttering? To begin to answer this therapeutic question, this project suggests that, instead of studying religious knowledge, (ʿUlūm Al-Dīn) and literature (Adab), separately – as their ostensible mutual estrangement in modernity has led us to do – we turn our attention to the range of experiences that become available when we consider the dynamic and symbiotic historical interrelations between them. This project is an endeavor in this direction. It attends to allocate the polemics incited in the first decades of 20th-century Egypt between religious and secular writers from the point of view of the latter as registered in their literal productions, particularly that by Taha Hussein (d. 1973) surrounding Muḥammad ‘Abduh’s death (d. 1905). Alongside voicing the tensions and uncovering the drama created in the aftermath of ‘Abduh’s absence, the project aims to show the ways Hussein and his fellow intellectuals, looked up and back to ‘Abduh with awe and sobriety and sought to extricate textures of belonging with him and his agenda of reform. 

Fatemeh Shams

is Assistant Professor of Modern Persian Literature at University of Pennsylvania. Her area of expertise includes literary production under authoritarian states, the social history of modern Persian literature, ideology and literary production. She is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning poet with three poetry collections. Her third collection, When They Broke Down the Door won the Latifeh Yarshater annual book award in 2017. Her first monograph, A Revolution in Rhyme: Official Poets of the Islamic Republic, will be published by Oxford University Press in 2020. In the academic year 2020/21, she was a virtual EUME Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies at Freie Universität Berlin and continues her association in the academic year 2021/22.

Portraits of Exile in Persian Literary Tradition

In its conventional sense, exile is a phenomenon symbiotic with nationalism, the idea of homeland and identity. A direct link between nationalist ideologies, exile and literature can be clearly drawn in a great number of countries throughout the twentieth century and has been the subject of numerous scholarly works – from the German genre of Exilliteratur, to writing from Italy, the Eastern Bloc, Turkey and over to Iran, Israel/Palestine, and the Arab states. The full complexity and nuance of exilic experience beyond official geographical displacement has, however, remained under-explored. As our wider understanding of exile grows to incorporate forms of sociological displacement and otherness, so must our analysis of the expression of these layered experiences in culture, language and literature. What does it mean to not feel ‘at home’ in one’s homeland? How does that impact creative output? Must a writer be expelled from their country to qualify as an exilic writer? How does uprooted-ness in geography impact literary expression? What happens to a writer’s relationship with language in a bi-lingual and multi-lingual context? Where do we place exophonic writings, in the literary tradition of the language they are written in or the language they long for or channel? How does the category of ‘exilic’ literature differ from ‘diasporic’ or ‘refugee’?

Portraits of Exile in Persian Literary Tradition is a book that Shams had been thinking about for the better part of a decade. In her first book, A Revolution in Rhyme: Official Poets of the Islamic Republic (Oxford University Press, 2020), she treats the relationship between literature, ideology and nation-building in Iran with particular focus on the past forty years. Her main focus was on the state-sponsored poets and their role in the production of ‘state-sponsored literature.’ The poets who were ‘included’ in the circle of power and were considered as an ‘insider’ (khodi) were the subject matter this work. Her second book project builds up on her first book by focusing on the alternate crowd, those writers who have not been part of the state ideological apparatus for various reasons. Those who have experienced an existence in void, a form of gender, ethnic, linguistic or political exile that has been echoed in their creative work. For them the exilic mode has been psychological rather than strictly geographical. The notions of ‘symbolic geography’ and ‘liminality’ in the works of these Iranian writers will be therefore among the key concepts that she aims at exploring.

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