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Modernity and Its Fallen Languages: Tanpιnar's Hasret, Benjamin's Melancholy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


A comparative study of the politics and theory of language in the writings of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpιnar and Walter Benjamin, this article suggests that a rethinking of the discursive commensurability and incommensurability of modern Turkish language and literature with western European representational practices has crucial implications for critical comparative methodology today. I leave behind conventional accounts based on models of European literary influence, emphasizing instead changes in writing practices that accompanied the development of modern literature and comparatism. Of particular significance for my analysis are the intensification of print culture and language reforms. I examine Tanpιnar's writings as a special archive registering the problematic of representational writing, while exploring their continuities and discontinuities with Benjamin's work. I configure an alternative critical comparative framework, troubling the uneven epistemological categories of modernity through which “East” and “West” continue to structure even the transnationalist critical discourse that interrogates them.

Cluster on Turkey
Copyright © 2008 by The Modern Language Association of America

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