Transnational Perspectives on 19th and 20th Century Women's Writing

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 Transnational Perspectives on the 19th and 20th century Women’s Writing Workshop
Transnational Perspectives on the 19th and 20th century Women’s Writing Workshop. 27 September 2012, Istanbul.
Transnational Perspectives on the 19th and 20th century Women’s Writing Workshop Report
The Transnational Perspectives on the 19th and 20th century Women’s Writing Workshop was held in Istanbul on 27-29 September 2013. The panels took place in the historical building of the "Women’s Library and Information Center Foundation." The theoretical starting point of the symposium was transnationalism, which favors historical and experience-based relations over nationalist, ethnic, and cultural divisions. The workshop aimed to enliven the dialogue between texts published by women writers of different origins with a comparative look at women’s writing.
The transnational movement spread across borders, opening a door to the disintegration of colonial and orientalist discourse. This discourse was shown to contain homogenous and monolithic fictions with strong influence on gender order, and also on solid constructions such as nation, ethnicity, and class. Since the symposium combined the closing of the project “Women Writers in Turkey” and the opening of the collaboration with COST Action “Women Writers in History,” transnational connections between the writers of 19th and 20th centuries, which witnessed an acceleration in the interaction of the international women’s movement and women’s writing, was the main point of discussion.
The workshop started with Canan Ergin and Suzan van Dijk's opening speeches. It was followed Jale Parla's presentation, titled as "Bodiless Voice, Echo". The next keynote speaker, Nüket Esen's presentation was on Fatma Aliye and her writing experience as a woman. The last keynote speaker of the first day of the workshop was Nora Şeni. Her presentaion was on the clothing habits and the notion of fashion in the times of Fatma Aliye.

The first day of the workshop had the mutual theme of “absence”: Absence of women writers from the stage of history. While Senem Timuroğlu shared information on 19th century Ottoman women writers, Gülşen Çulhaoğlu discussed the limited information on these writers and highlighted the reasons behind the limited information on Ottoman women poets. One of the main conclusions of her presentation was that it was impossible for the researchers to have a clear picture of the literature of the time without getting detailed information on women writers as well. Reyhan Tutumlu approached the issue through the 20th century anthologies and textbooks and pointed at the limited information on women writers in these books. Women writers’ approach to the historical and social conditions of their time was also one of the discussions points. While Elif Ekin Akşit discussed women’s roles in village institutes through the writings of Mualla Eyüboğlu, Tülin Ural discussed the relationship between women writers and the strongest ideology of the first half of the century: nationalism. The panels of the first day ended with an important example of the “absence of women writers”: Hazal Halavut discussed the absence of Zabel Yaseyan, an Armenian writer, who penned her works in the 20th century, from canons or the dominant narratives of the time.

The second day of the workshop started with the keynote speaker, Ayşe Durakbaşa's presentation on Halide Edip Adıvar. On the second day of the workshop the transnational connections between Balkan women writers was discussed through COST Action. Amelia Sanz explained how COST action traces 19th century European women writers’ voices by passing beyond the limits of nations, canons and printed culture. Caterine Nosdeo followed the Orient images in Princess Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso and in doing so she discussed the differences between the patriarchal form of Orientalism and women-centered fiction. Astrid Kulsdom analyzed Lucy M. J Garnett’s role as a specialist on Balkan folklore and the perception of that role in media. Nadzhda Alexandrova traced the nostalgia for Istanbul of Balkan women in 19th century through Evgenia Mars’ A Journey To Istanbul, while Katerina Dalakoura investigated the image of national self and “the other” in Greek women’s educational texts. Ileana Mihaila drew a portrait of Dora d’Istria who managed to research and publish on all the national communities of the Balkan peninsula, while Nancy Isenberg discussed the evolution of Giustiniana Wynne’s treatment of women and womanhood. Magdalena Koch and Biljana Dojcinovic presented their research on Jelena Dimitrijevic who was a traveler, a polyglot and a writer. Koch and Dojcinovic highlighted the non-orientalist image of Turkish harems in Dimitrijevic’s writings.
Zsuzanna Varga’s paper offered an examination of the travelogue of Polixéna Wesselényi, the first Hungarian female travel writer who authored a monograph-length text and also exerted considerable cultural influence on her contemporaries. Alenka Jensterle Dolezal discussed the “cultural hybridity” of Slovene writer Lili Novy. Ramona Mihaila shared information on foreign-born women writers in Romanian principalities, like Marie Boucher, Fanny Seculici, Maria Rosetti, Mite Kremnitz, Carmen Sylva, and Anna de Noailles, and discussed their literary perspectives. Ragnhild J. Sorgati investigated the encounter between the Polish-Danish painter Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann and the Egyptian Princess Nazili Hanım.
The third day focused on comparative perspectives: Burcu Alkan compared two fin de siècle writers, Virginia Woolf and Halide Edip Adıvar by discussing the different modes of modernity that they experienced and wrote on. Şima İmşir analyzed and compared the historical as well as social conditions behind Sylvia Plath and Nilgün Marmara’s writings and analyzed the mutual feeling of oppression which created a beyond time and beyond nation bond between their works.
On the final day Çimen Günay Erkol presented the outcomes of the “Women Writers in Turkey” project which is supported by TÜBİTAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (109K517)) and is a part of the collaborative research in the framework of the COST Action entitled “Women Writers in History: Toward a New Understanding of European Literary Culture” (IS0901).
The workshop ended with the final panel discussion, which was led by Çimen Günay Erkol, Senem Timuroğlu, Burcu Alkan, Amelia Sanz, Biljana Dojcinovic and Nadezhda Alexandrova. The workshop, overall, was a highly productive example of collaborative and shared research. As the COST Action of “Women Writers in History: Toward a New Understanding of European Literary Culture” continues and as new transnational connections of women writers are revealed, literary history will have a clearer picture necessary for a more complete understanding.

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