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UAL Research Online

Introduction to the Reprint: Iconic Disenchantment: Evaluating Femininity in the East and West

Lewis, Reina (2004) Introduction to the Reprint: Iconic Disenchantment: Evaluating Femininity in the East and West. In: Hanoum, Zeyneb. A Turkish Woman's European Impressions: New Introduction by Reina Lewis. Cultures in Dialogue (3). Gorgias Press, Piscataway, N.J.. ISBN 9781593332075, 1593332076

Type of Research: Book Section
Creators: Lewis, Reina

This essay introduces the re-issue of Zeyneb Hanoum’s 1913 volume, reprinted as part of the series Cultures in Dialogue. Conceived by myself and developed with Professor Teresa Heffernan (St Mary’s University, Canada), the series is directive in its re-visioning of the field of middle-eastern women’s cultural history. Returning to print memoir and travel writing by women from and about the Ottoman Empire, Series One has 11 volumes, with critical introductions from researchers from Greece, Turkey, Germany, USA, Canada and the UK.

My essay extends my research on Zeyneb Hanoum, a key figure in my monograph 'Rethinking Orientalism'. This article focuses on the production of Zeyneb Hanoum’s book, analysing her relationship with her editor, the British feminist Grace Ellison, to argue that the interrogative and collaborative nature of the publication determines the style and structure of the narrative. The primary and secondary research undertaken to identify books for inclusion in the series gave me new insights into how to approach Zeyneb Hanoum’s problematic text – sometimes dismissed as trivial and too highly subjective. New primary material, from Ellison’s other publications, contemporary reviews, and other Western and Ottoman women writers, allowed me to locate Zeyneb Hanoum more closely to her contemporaries. Emphasising the interactive nature of her book, my historicised textual analysis demonstrates that she was part of a network of middle-eastern women whose dialogue with Western women was contestatory and evaluative, rather than emulative and passive. This repositions Zeyneb Haoum’s life-writing as part of the pattern of women’s critical engagement with cultural difference, which was a factor in the development of Western and non-Western modernities.

Official Website: http://www.gorgiaspress.com/bookshop/pc-55579-54-hanoum-zeyneb-and-reina-lewis-a-turkish-womans-european-impressions.aspx
Additional Information (Publicly available):

This essay has been disseminated in international conference panels. I have convened with series contributors, including USA (MESA, MLA, Berks Women’s History), Toronto and Istanbul (CSA, supported by British Academy Overseas Conference Grant).

Born into the Ottoman Muslim elite, Zeyneb Hanoum and her sister Melek Hanoum were given a Western-style education by their progressive father, who expected them subsequently to live the segregated lives of Ottoman ladies. Rebelling, the sisters arranged to meet the French author Pierre Loti and collaborated with him on his famous book Les Désenchantés/The Disenchanted in the hope that harnessing European intellectual support would speed up Ottoman social reform. Fleeing Istanbul in 1906 for fear of imperial reprisals, the sisters traveled in disguise to Europe, hoping to find "freedom" in the West. Zeyneb Hanoum's correspondence with the English feminist Grace Ellison (also in this series), provides an account both of their restricted lives in Istanbul and of their disappointment with the state of emancipation of Western women. With Zeyneb Hanum's letters punctuated by Ellison's introduction, commentary, and footnotes, this book challenges Orientalist stereotypes as it exposes the cultural and political agency of Ottoman Muslim women and documents the vibrant engagement between Eastern and Western women at the fin de siècle.

Cultures in Dialogue returns to print sources by women writers from the East and West. Series One considers the exchanges between Ottoman, British, and American women from the 1880s to the 1940s. Their varied responses to dilemmas such as nationalism, female emancipation, race relations and modernization in the context of the stereotypes characteristic of Western harem literature reframe the historical tensions between Eastern and Western cultures, offering a nuanced understanding of their current manifestations.

Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: Turkey, travel writing, orientalism, feminism
Publisher/Broadcaster/Company: Gorgias Press
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Fashion
Research Groups > Historical and Cultural Studies
Date: 2004
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2009 11:49
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2020 11:08
Item ID: 993
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/993

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