Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Ottoman Women Authors and What their Texts Disclose: the Pains and Pleasures of Writing

Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Magnolia, Lower Ground Floor

The atmosphere of censure towards women’s literary engagements has persisted throughout history. In both familiar and changing forms, we encounter it into the contemporary period.


Ottoman religious works and legal treatises depicted the ideal woman as a subject whose virtue resided in her silence and modesty, as well as in her fulfillment of “womanly” duties. By contrast, certain educated urban women negotiated new avenues outside of the traditional domain to articulate their existence, writing included. Given the challenge of their works to gender stereotypes, women’s writings often remained outside of the literary canon, or else male poets and literary historiographers marginalized these works through gender-based evaluations. Not only content and quality were at issue, the mere presence of women’s writing often brought about an uneasiness on the part of its receptors.  


In this paper, I investigate how Ottoman Muslim women between the 15th and the mid-19th centuries, who composed mostly poetry and letters, reacted against such attitudes and criticisms, on the part of male literati and of society-at-large. Moreover, I focus on the uneasiness of female authors themselves and on their protests and ways of contestation as well. As an example, I discuss the verses of Şeref Hanım (b. 1809), which ask God for protection against the lashings of her colleagues, the male poets. Furthermore, I ask if and how female literati expressed their motives for writing, within a male-dominated tradition, and in an inhospitable environment.

Emine Dogan

Ibn Haldun University, Turkey

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3 - Ottoman Women Authors and What their Texts Disclose: the Pains and Pleasures of Writing



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