Outside the Canon? Non-European Literatures in Turkey in the First Half of the 20th Century
Şehnaz Tahir Gürçağlar
Modernization, Europeanization and westernization have been synonymous in Turkey throughout much of 19th and 20th centuries. Translation was seen as a major instrument of both, and translated literature has played an important role in creating a new canon for Turkish literature. The government-sponsored translation movement in the 1940s-1960s placed emphasis on the translation of “western” classics and had an overwhelming focus on European works, often at the expense of literature from other cultures. This is why research on translation movements during the first few decades of the Republic of Turkey has focused on translations of western works.
The government’s focus on European classics had various reasons, the leading one being the western-oriented cultural policies of the ruling elite, especially throughout the 1940s. Another obvious reason was a shortage of translators competent in non-European languages, as well as languages of smaller-diffusion in Europe. Were there other, and less obvious reasons? How was the presentation and reception of these literatures among critics, publishers and readers? Did these literatures constitute a single discursive entity (much like European or western literature did)?
My paper will be asking these questions as it explores the discourse on non-European literature in Turkey through the 1930s and 1940s in literary magazines, including Tercüme, the journal of the government translation bureau, as well as Varlık, the oldest literary magazine that is still active in Turkey. I will study the role of their discourse in shaping an image and a potential “need” for non-European literatures in Turkish translation. While my previous work has considered the place of translation (in general) within the editorial habitus of the literary magazine, this paper will further zoom in on translations from non-European literatures and the types of internal and external dialogics they help construct in the Turkish literary magazine.
Bio: Şehnaz Tahir Gürçağlar is a Professor in the Department of Translation and Interpreting Studies at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, and a visiting researcher at Glendon College, York University (2014-2015). Her research interests are translation history and historiography, translation sociology, retranslation, periodical studies and reception studies. She currently works on the methodological relevance of periodicals for research on translation history. She is the author of The Politics and Poetics of Translation in Turkey, 1923-1960 (Rodopi 2008). Tahir Gürçağlar is a member of the steering committee for the international EMUNI Translation Studies Doctoral and Teacher Training Summer School, and an ARTIS (Advancing Research in Translation & Interpreting Studies) Associate.