Jale Parla

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JALE PARLA She was born on 5 February 1945, in Istanbul. She completed her primary school education in Antakya in 1956, and her middle school education in Uskudar American Girls’ High Scool in 1960. In 1964, she graduated from Arnavutkoy American Girls’ College. After completing her BA in the Department of Comparative Literature, Robert College in 1968, she obtained her PhD in English Literature as her major subject and French and German literatures as her minor subjects in University of Harvard in 1978. She became a professor in 1988. She taught in the Department of Western Languages and Literature, Bogazici University from 1976 to 2000. Since 2000, she has been working as the professor of English and Comparative Literature in the Department of Comparative Literature, Istanbul Bilgi University.

Her articles and reviews were published in various national and international journals, such as Varlık, Defter, New Perspectives on Turkey, PMLA (Publications of the Modern Language Association of America), The South Atlantic Quarterly, CLS (Comparative Literature Studies). She was one of the editors of the book, The Development Of Contemporary Civilization along with other professors from Bogazici University. In this book she wrote the sections, The Development of Contemporary Turkish Culture from the 16th to the 18th Century, European Literature in the 16th and 17th Centuries, and European Literature in the 18th Century. She published Masters, Slaves and Orientalism in 1985, Fathers and Sons: The Epistemology Foundations of the Literature of the Tanzimat Era in 1990, From Don Quixote to the Presentday Novel in 2000, Gender and Literature (ed. with Sibel Irzık) in 2004, Balkan Literatures in the Era of Nationalism (ed. with Murat Belge) in 2008 and Writer And Metamorphosis In Turkish Literature in 2011.

In her PhD thesis which she wrote from 1974 to 1977, she focused on the Western creation of the Myth of the East. She analysed the eastern images that were created by the West in the 19th century through the works of Byron, Hugo, Beckford, Dickens, Thackeray, Nerval and Gautier. She focused on the connection of the dominant politics of the day and the cultural discourse, along with the process in which those two dynamics create each other from the early 19th century to 1850. She published her PhD thesis in 1985 under the title Masters, Slaves and Orientalism.

In her Fathers and Sons, she focuses on the emergence of the Turkish novel and its underlying epistemological foundations on a line from fathers to sons. According to Parla, through the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, the writers of the Tanzimat Era positioned themselves as the domineering inheritor sons of the long gone father. The writers of the Tanzimat era took over the household in the Westernization process and tried to stop the Ottoman Empire from disintegrating. Even though they imitated the Western novel stylistically, they follow the lines of Islamic epistemology in the context and use allegory to support their didactic style. The clean cut differences between good and evil exemplify their allegoric usage. Therefore Eastern customs are presented as the map to a society that is struggling on slippery ground following the loss of the father. The Tanzimat writers prioritized the demonstration of their knowledge and skills over the needs of the story. Their primary concern was to present their ideologies. Therefore the writer of the text positions himself as the sultan of the society and father of the household, as well as the main figure who is responsible for protecting the society from the danger of Westernization.

From Don Quixote to the Present-day Novel includes her lectures entitled Don Quixote and the Poetics of The Novel that she gave in Boğaziçi University and later in Istanbul Bilgi University. In this work Parla follows the emergence of the novel from Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote and analyses the works of Laurence Sterne, Denis Diderot, Henry Fielding, Emily Bronté, Charles Dickens, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Italo Calvino, Ahmet Mithat, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, Oğuz Atay, Adalet Ağaoğlu, Latife Tekin and Orhan Pamuk in a comparative context. While the cornerstones of literature theory, such as mimesis, intertexuality, dialogism, carnavalisation and meta-fiction are discussed in the light of Don Quixote, the concepts of reality, fantasy, writer, reader, language and canon are followed through the works of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, Denis Diderot’s Jacques The Fatalist, James Joyce’s The Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man and Ulysses, Alain Robbe-Grillet’s The Erasers and Italio Calvino’s If On A Winter Night’s A Traveller.

In Gender and Literature, which she edited with Sibel Irzık, she analyses literature through the eyes of gender. Parla portrays the history of feminist theory starting from Mary Wollstonecraft to the theorists of écriture feminine in What Has Gender Criticism Achieved?, and discusses the effects of feminist criticism in the field of literature criticism. In My History Is My Nightmare: The Dream, Nightmare, Room and Writing In Women Writers’ Novels, she focuses on the narratives of dreams in women writers’ texts and analyses the women’s struggle with their personal histories by means of rooms, dreams and nightmares, considering the bilgungsroman tradition through the works of Adalet Agaoglu, Erendiz Atasu, Peride Celal and Latife Tekin. She analyses the texts of the new generation of women writers through the works of Perihan Magden and Asli Erdogan.

In Balkan Literatures in the Era of Nationalism, edited with Murat Belge, she takes the role of literature in the construction of nation states as the main focus. They collected essays on the emergence, characteristics and evolution of Balkan Literatures.

The Author and Metamorphosis in the Turkish Novel focuses on kunstlerroman examples in Turkish literature and analyses the metamorphosis of texts, heroes and language in such texts. While pointing out the frequency of writer or poet heroes in Turkish literature, she divides these heroes into two. The first group includes the heroes who position themselves as the intellectual leaders and the masters of texts. The main texts of the Tanzimat Era exemplify such authoritative figures. The second group includes heroes who are unable to succeed in their writerly aims. Parla builds her work mainly on these writers who fail to succeed in their writing. Rebellion against the central powers and ideologies, dialogism, deconstruction of the central voice and the shattering of dualism evolve from these failing writers; the metamorphosis of the language, text and heroes turn the hegemonic powers upside down.

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