Delve Winter 2020: Historical Imagination and the Modern Turkish Novel


Delve Winter 2020: Historical Imagination and the Modern Turkish Novel


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Thursdays, January 9 – February 13, 2020
6:30-8:30 p.m. (six sessions)
Guide: Ülker Gökberk

This Delve explores two pivotal examples of historical fiction in contemporary Turkish literature, Elif Shafak’s The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi (2009) and Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red (2001). Shafak’s novel transports the reader to the golden age of the Anatolian city Konja, the capital of the Seljuk Sultanate in the mid 13th century.

Among the many refugees who settled in this cultural crossroads was the family of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, the mystic poet and the founder of the Mevlevi order. By way of moving along two temporal trajectories, Rumi’s 13th century and contemporary Boston, Massachusetts, The Forty Rules of Love constructs love stories that are both particular and universal.

Like Shafak, Pamuk experiments in My Name is Red with multiple genres. His novel is all at once a murder mystery, a reflection on visual arts, a romantic love story, and a philosophical musing on representation. My Name is Red takes the reader to the Ottoman Empire of 1591 and the ateliers of the miniaturists at the court of Sultan Murat III. Within the frame of historical fiction, Pamuk displays themes and tropes, central to his oeuvre, such as, the negotiation of identities between East and West (miniature versus portraiture), tradition and modernity, and the epistemology of story telling.

Both novelists draw particular attention to the disparities between the male and female voices regarding the construction of truth. 


The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi by Elif Shafak
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
Selections from The Essential Rumi will complement the readings.


Introduction; Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love, Prologue through Part One, pp. 1-94;

The Essential Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks, Introduction to the New Edition, xv-xviii; On Rumi, xix-xxi; A Note on the Organization of this Book, xxiii-xxv; Poems: Section 1, The Tavern: On the Tavern, p. 1; “A Community of the Spirit,” pp. 3-4; “Special Plates,” p. 7; Section 2, On Bewilderment: “I Have Five Things To Say,” pp. 9-11; “Be Melting Snow,” p. 13; Section 3, Emptiness and Silence: “The Reed Flute’s Song,” pp. 17-19; “Enough Words?” p. 20; “This World Which Is Made Of Our Love For Emptiness,” pp. 21-22; “Quietness,” p. 22; “Only Breath,” p. 32.

Please read these poems as an initiation to the world of Rumi. You may choose to focus on a few from the above selection and convey your reading experience in our first session. If time allows, please visit the official site of Elif Shafak:

Information on the Anatolian city of Konja in the 13th century is available online. We will address the historical context during our opening session.


Ülker Gökberk is Professor Emerita of German and Humanities at Reed College. She earned her Ph.D. in Germanics at the University of Washington (1986) and her M.A. and B.A. degrees in Philosophy at the University of Istanbul. She has been at Reed since 1986. Her forthcoming book is titled Excavating Memory: Bilge Karasu’s Istanbul and Walter Benjamin’s Berlin.

Delve Access Program
We want Delve seminars to be accessible to everyone, regardless of income and background. We understand that our tuition structure can present obstacles for some people. We are happy to offer an Access Program which provides reduced tuition to qualifying participants. Our Access Program offers Delve seminar registrations at a sliding scale amount of $45-$100 per registration.Contact Susan Moore at if you would like to take a Delve at the Access Rate.