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Halman, Talat S. (author) and Jayne L. Warner (ed.). Rapture and Revolution: Essays on Turkish Literature.

Halman, Talat S. (author) and Jayne L. Warner (ed.). Rapture and Revolution: Essays on Turkish Literature. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press Crescent Hill Publications, 2007. 403 pp.

Talat Halman's Rapture and Revolution gives an overview of Turkish literature from the times of nomadic Turks to modernist movements in the Republic, without imposing a specific critical view. Halman compiled a vast amount of original research, done by scholars of Turkish literature around the world; the references and the comprehensive index are particularly impressive in this sense. This informative and introductory book of essays may especially be inspiring for students interested in global literatures.

The collection is divided into three sections: Myths and Monoliths; Critics, Dramatics, Poetics; Mystics and Modern Masters. The fast section situates Turkish literature within a cartography of Near Eastern and world literatures, whereas the second section undertakes the evolution of genres in Turkish literature, and even delves into cultural studies by exploring the literature of Turkish immigrants in Germany. The final part is predominantly devoted to canonical names in Turkish poetry, such as Nazim Hikmet and Yunus Emre. In fact, unlike the title of the book suggests, the primary focus of the book is on poetry and to a lesser extent, drama, and Halman includes translations of various sufi, divan, and modern poems in this collection. With the exception of scattered references to Yasar Kemal, Aziz Nesin, Sait Faik, and a few other early prose writers, there is no in-depth study of the Turkish novel. Owing much to Metin And's work, Halman's section called "The Evolution of Turkish Drama" and particularly, the section on shadow plays and Karagoz will certainly intrigue students of early modern studies, and it remains as one of the highlights of the collection. One other intriguing section for foreign readers may also be the section on two Sufi poets, Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi and Yunus Emre. Even though the article on Rumi is quite comprehensive, a lot of effort is put into the discussion of his Turkish identity, and an apotheosis of Rumi dominates the article.

While a student of Turkish literature may find the scope of the book limited and the essays introductory, those interested in world or Near Eastern literatures may take away important insights from this collection on the literary dynamics in the Turkish world of the last two millennia. Unfortunately, even though it is informative, the collection still suffers from major editorial problems. The editor, Jayne L. Warner, notes that repetitive references were kept so that each article could be used independently and in any order, but excessive repetition creates a few challenges for the reader and the instructor. Writers and poets are introduced almost identically in chapters and at times not only names, and definitions, but also the themes of chapters are repeated. For instance, the chapter on "Ottoman Literature" in the first section gets repeated in the Turkish drama and poetry chapters of the last two sections. Similarly, the section on "Myths and Monoliths" discusses aruz meter and divan poetry but the last chapter also has a section called Divan poetry, and since most of the information is similar or identical, readers may find it hard to get all the information they need in a single chapter and are recommended to refer to the index. This problematic division and organization makes it rather challenging to assign readings to students as well, especially if the instructors prefer to direct students' attention to certain genres and periods in Turkish literature. Overall, this confusion could have been avoided to a certain extent if the editor provided cross-references in the footnotes about which other articles in the collection might be relevant or complimentary. There are also questionable moments such as the section on Suleiman the Magnificent's poetry in the last chapter. One wonders why his poems were not discussed solely in the section on divan poetry but were included in the "Mystics and Modern Masters" chapter, as Suleiman is neither a mystic poet nor a bridge between modern and mystic poetry. Other than a more coherent structure, what is really missing in this collection are images and illustrations. Even though the general audience will appreciate the translations of many poems from Farsi, Turkish, and Arabic, still the section on drama could have easily been enriched with illustrations of shadow plays or images from post-Ottoman theatre productions.

The editor notes in her overview that there has been a worldwide curiosity in Turkish literature after the Nobel Prize went to a Turkish novelist in 2006. There may be some truth in her comment, but ironically there are no essays on Pamuk's work in this collection. What is even more disappointing is that the collection gives the reader the feeling that it was rushed into the market. Minimal editing, the scarcity of new perspectives and stimulating ideas constitute neither a rapture from a traditional anthologizing view nor a revolutionary way of reading Turkish literature.

Iclal Vanwesenbeeck

State University of New York at Fredonia
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Author:Vanwesenbeeck, Iclal
Publication:Journal of Third World Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2010
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