An uncanny Turkic: İsmail Gasprinskii’s language lesson

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This article addresses the imagination of Turkic in the work of one of the most influential Russian Muslim jadidists, İsmail Bey Gasprinskii (1851–1914), in the context of the communications and philological revolution of the nineteenth century. Considered the founder of modern Turcology and pan-Turkism, Gasprinskii edited the most influential and enduring newspaper of the period, Tercüman/ Perevodchik (Interpreter), seeking to establish a simplified written Turkic language as the “common literary language” of a wide reading public that by the late nineteenth century stretched from Istanbul through Caucasia to Turkestan. His 1887–1889 serialized novel, Frengistan Mektupları (European Letters), which thematized the translative travel of Turkic across other languages (most notably French), constitutes an important archive of not only the register but also the imagination of the Turkic language itself as a medium. Through a reading of this serialized novel and its sequels, I will suggest that Gasprinskii imagined the Turkic language as an unheimlich force linking its users to unseen and unheard places, rather than as a homogeneous empty medium. If Gasprinskii’s writings ultimately gave way to a discourse of Muslim Turkic identitarianism, I suggest, we can ascribe that to his profound enchantment with and fear of an overwhelming translative Turkic producing unpredictable effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-55
Number of pages22
JournalMiddle Eastern Literatures
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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