Freedom and Desire in Late Ottoman Erotica

Episode 448

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"One Thousand Kisses," "Plate of Cream," "Story of a Lily:" these are some of the provocative titles that graced the covers of Ottoman erotic novels in the early decades of the twentieth century. While erotic fiction and poetry had a long history in Ottoman and Arabic manuscript culture, the erotic novels of the second constitutional period (1908-1914), some creatively adapted from French originals, emerged in a period of unprecedented freedom for writers. Yet the novels themselves were often less explicit and transgressive than their their titles might suggest. In this episode, Burcu Karahan shows how, in late Ottoman fiction, stories about sex and desire celebrated not only sexual freedom, but also conservative fantasies about male sexual power and the power of heterosexual love.

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Contributor Bios

Burcu Karahan is the Turkish Literature and Language lecturer at Comparative Literature Department at Stanford University. Her research focuses on late 19th and early 20th century Ottoman literature.
Suzie Ferguson is a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area studies. Her work focuses on the conceptual and social history of education, gender, and democracy in Egypt and Lebanon.


Episode No. 448
Release Date: 7 February 2020
Recording Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Audio editing by Maryam Patton
Music: Chad Crouch - Lilac; Kai Engel - Cabaret; Chad Crouch - Appreciation
Bibliography and images courtesy of Burcu Karahan


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