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2017 – Older Talks

 Date: April 25, 2017

Speaker: Mihaela P. Harper
Academic Affiliation: CCI, Bilkent University
Title: Georgi Gospodinov’s There, Where We Are Not: Beyond, Between, Elsewhere, and Nowhere

Description: After his last novel, The Physics of Sorrow, prompted Jean-Luc Nancy to urge everyone to read it “sans délai,” a much-anticipated volume of poetry by Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov appeared in print in April 2016. He writes “In Place of a Preface” that this is a book “Not about the cities, but about the absence /…/ Not geography, but beyond / a geography of the beyond. / Of this here of the bodies and there of language.” Gathered over the course of a decade, Gospodinov’s poetic peregrinations traverse boundaries— geographical (between local and global), temporal (between past and present), philosophical (between events and non-events), and linguistic (between the trivial and the profound). The poems sustain his endeavors to glimpse “elsewhere” in its many senses and the human being with all of its doubts, sorrows, [and] afternoon lonelinesses.

Date: March 28, 2017   

Speaker: Daniel Irizarry
Academic Affiliation: Department of Performing Arts, Bilkent University
Title: Kuden and Mask Work

Description: From ancient Greek theatre to Meyerhold’s etudes & biomechanics to my grandma: how mask and tempo have helped shape my training with actors.

Date: March 14, 2017

Speaker: Heather H. Yeung
Academic Affiliation: ELIT, Bilkent University
Title: To Catch a Worm: From the Early Bird to the Diet of Worms

Description: In this CCI colloquium talk, based on research for her forthcoming cultural history of the worm, Dr. Heather H. Yeung (ELIT) invites you to come along and, like the early bird, attempt to catch a worm! Analysing the proverbial ‘early bird’ and other well-known worm-eaten phrases, the talk will explore a series of very different habits of the worm, from the Kinabalu Giant Earthworm to the Carthusian Miscellany (BL MS Additional 37049); from the balololailai festival to Wallace Stevens’s worm-eaten Badroulbadour… Combining literary texts with cultural and scientific knowledge, the talk is broadly concerned with the manners in which we digest, process, and classify this creature, and seeks to provoke a reconsideration of what it is we react to when we encounter, in one of its many guises, the worm.

2006 – 2001 – Older Talks

A talk presented by Prof. Olivier Abel, of The Protestant Institute of Theology, Paris.

There are certain things that cannot be forced. We cannot make someone believe any more than we can make them remember, make them love any more than we can make them forgive and forget. The danger facing every politics of memory is to declare a duty of remembering, if not of forgetting, and to build on that an official version of history.

To clarify the relationship between memory and history, without confusing them or dissociating them completely, we must turn to Paul Ricœur, whose work best guides us in this area. To untangle the two notions history and memory, he introduces a third, that of politics. Behind the conflict of memory and history there lies a horizon irreducible to that of the epistemological truth of history, namely that of the divided city. How to ensure that this difference does not lead to civil war? How do we ensure a minimum of historical confidence so that history is not reduced to a relationship of force? This necessary confidence presupposes credit given to a diversity of memories, and to a historical distance. It also supposes that today’s memory, when it reappropriates the past and makes it its own, does not do so as a revindication of identity, but rather through work and an ethical displacement that encompasses the past in its entirety. Finally this confidence requires that a difference be made between that part of the past that does not pass and is not finished, and what is past and can be buried. All these are questions where philosophy meets history.

To conclude I wish to address a philosophical question of some concern to me: the passage from a regime of imperial history (that of the Ottoman Empire), to a regime of national history (that of Kemalist Turkey), did not happen overnight. Similarly what we seek in Europe, and indeed the world, is the delicate passage from a regime of national history to a post-national, federal or pluri-national regime, that we do not know yet and which we must invent. This passage is a dangerous moment. How do we make place for a new regime of memory, which must also be a new regime for political agreement and disagreement. Is it not in this difficult remembering and reopening of the past to other historical possibilities that we are caught and at which we must work together?

Archived Talks

A list talks and presentations hosted by the Program in Cultures, Civilizations and Ideas between 2001 and 2006 is archived CCI Talks (2001-2006) here.

2010 – Older Talks

Unwritten History or Unwriting History: On Armenians, Greeks and Jews in Turkish Literature

The contributions made by non-Muslim authors to Ottoman Turkish literature have largely been ignored by mainstream literary historians and critics. This papers aims to present Armeno-Turkish, Judeo-Turkish and Karamanli literatures and to explore the challenges it represents for Turkish literary historiography and criticism.
Date: 23 November 2010
Speaker: Dr. Laurent Mignon, Bilkent University, Department of Turkish Literature

The Irony of American Tragedy

We have heard, often, that in America, a country in which a belief in betterment, optimism and individual triumph reign supreme (at least, this is the narrative), tragedy is not possible. Most often, though, the criteria for tragic status stems from a single work of philosophy: Aristotle’s Poetics, rather than from attentive consideration of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides’ wildly divergent tragedies. I will argue that we have seen, in this last decade, an upswing in American tragedies rooted in, “the irony of American history,” (to borrow Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous title) and in the media of episodic television and film. To understand this upswing, though, we need to look carefully at the individual Athenian tragedies themselves.
Date: 9 November 2010
Speaker: Dr. Christopher Love, Bilkent University, Program in Cultures, Civilizations & Ideas

Family Worship for Dummies: Defoe’s Trusted Brand, the FamilyInstructor Conduct Books

The Crusoe sequels, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe(1719) and Serious Reflections on the life of Robinson Crusoe(1720), receive little critical attention, a neglect attributed to the increasing formal disparity between the later novels and Robinson Crusoe (1719). Reading Defoe’s Family Instructor series of conduct books (The Family Instructor [1715], The Family Instructor II [1718] and A New Family Instructor [1727]) alongside the Robinson Crusoe series reveals a larger scheme at work. Defoe reuses titles and characters to create unlikely partnerships between texts in order to bring a general readership to theologically sophisticated work. These formal disparities do not signal artistic lapses; they represent Defoe’s attempt to use earlier texts as brand-like entities.
Date: 26 October 2010
Speaker: Dr. Margaret France, Bilkent University, Program in Cultures, Civilizations & Ideas

Theodore Roosevelt and New York: The Future President’s Urban Roots 

Theodore Roosevelt has become an icon of the American West, frequently portrayed in history as a cowboy, hunter, and cattle rancher.  This image obscures the fact that Roosevelt was born and raised in New York City, the most throughly urbanized part of the United States.  Moreover, he made his early political career in New York, serving in the state assembly, running for mayor, and serving as police commissioner.  While many Roosevelt biographers seek to place Roosevelt and his future policies in a western context, it is really New York City that shaped his ideas about America and launched his political career.
Date: 19 October 2010
Speaker: Dr. Edward Kohn, Bilkent University Department of History, Chairman of Department of American Culture and Literature.

2011 – Older Talks

The Allure of the Undead: Jan Potocki’s Manuscript Found in Saragossa

This paper considers Jan Potocki’s Manuscript Found in Saragossa in light of its intervention into 19th century struggles between the romantic and the novelistic. Potocki’s text illuminates the links between debates about genre and discourses of civilization and savagery, highlighting the ambiguous role of reading in the formation of the ‘civilized’ modern subject.

Considered by Tzvetan Todorov to be an emblematic example of the fantastic, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa details the adventures of a young soldier named Alfons van Worden as he travels through the Sierra Morena, the mountain range that borders La Mancha. This proximity to the setting of Don Quixote is not coincidental; indeed, the novel engages with many of the questions raised by Cervantes’ famous work, particularly that of the relationship between literature and reality, and the question of whether fiction is an art of moral instruction or of dangerous illusions.

As Alfons’ trek continues, he becomes caught up in a web of what appear to be supernatural machinations, haunted by ghosts and demons and tempted with illicit pleasures. Simultaneously, he is joined by a band of travelers who pass the time by telling stories, many of which are related to the otherworldly occurrences that he struggles to rationalize. The action of the novel shifts from encounters with a foreign world to encounters with exotic tales, becoming a quest of interpretation that blurs the lines between fiction and experience.
Date: 14 December 2011
Speaker: Dr. Katarzyna (Kasia) Bartoszyńska, Bilkent University, Program in Cultures, Civilizations & Ideas

Spring Program

  • Living together in mediaeval Anatolia: Christians and Sufis in the Seljuk state

Speaker: Dr. Andrew Peacock, Asst. Director, British Institute at Ankara

  • Letters to Queen Elizabeth: Anglo-Turkish Relations in Sultan Murad III’s Reign

Speaker: Dr. Gül Kurtuluş, Bilkent University, Department of English Language and Literature

  • The Requirements of Immortality According to the Gilgamesh Epic

Speaker: Dr. Selim Ferruh Adalı, Bilkent University, Department of Archaeology

  • Uses of Plunder in the Old English Judith and the Middle English Cleanness

Speaker: Dr. Denis Ferhatovic, Bilkent University, Program in Cultures, Civilizations and Ideas

  • Impossible Parthenon: Turkish Classicism at Anıtkabir

Speaker: Dr. Matthew Gumpert, Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Department of Western Languages and Literatures

Spring Program Poster

2012 – Older Talks

“The Barbaric Reader: Revolution and Secrecy in Bolaño’s Distant Star

This paper analyzes Bolaño’s 1996 novel Distant Star, and specifically the novel’s narrator, a voracious reader who desires nothing more than to be a revolutionary. Though his political activities seem doomed to failure, I argue that the novel puts forth a concept of “permanent revolution” in the narrator’s betrayals of the texts he reads so closely, even though — indeed, because — he himself is unaware of these betrayals.

Date: Thursday, 18 October 2012 from 16.45 to 17.45 in the G-160 Seminar Room.
Presenter: Dr. Cory Stockwell
View entire 2012 CCI Colloquium Series

Utopian Impulses

Dr. Kory Sorrell, Bilkent University, Fall 2012
Interested students must contact Dr. Sorrell before registration.

The word “Utopia”, coined by Sir Thomas More, is a pun that refers both to “nowhere” (ou topos) and to a “happy place” (eutopos). It is in practice an imaginative projection, rooted in some time and place, of a possible future that not only carries forward the best parts of the present, but also frees us from pressing injustice, arbitrary constraint, and other sources of perceived suffering. Responding to diverse conditions, Utopian constructions vary in form, but all imagine a better way of life, and many struggle to find the means to somehow implement these visions in the here and now. “Progress”, as Oscar Wilde writes, “is the realization of Utopias”. In this seminar, we carefully examine the Utopian Impulse, its various manifestations, its historical successes and failures, and its realistic prospects for the future we will someday share. To fully appreciate and evaluate the influence of Utopian thought and practice, this seminar requires (a) close reading of literary, philosophical, and historical texts, (b) consideration of Utopian ideas in art and architecture, and (c) examination of potentially new resources for Utopian projects resulting from recent advances in the social sciences. During the seminar and in research projects, students will analytically engage these sources, provide their own deeply informed syntheses, and evaluate the relevance of the Utopian Impulse.

Medieval Germanic Epic and Saga

Dr. Denis Ferhatovic, Bilkent University, Spring 2012
Interested students must contact Dr. Ferhatovic before registration.

Thanks to popular cinematic modernizations, we are all now familiar with mighty, stoic men and women who face adversity that assumes the form of a cannibalistic monster, winged dragon, or rival tribe leader, with a firm grasp on their weapon and a brutal sense of humor.  But is there more to this type of heroism than meets the eye?  We will read about different Germanic heroes from three overlapping but distinct traditions (Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, and Middle High German), their allies and adversaries, their spectacular accomplishments and sometimes equally spectacular failures.  We will ponder such issues as military strategies, gender dynamics, portrayal of enemies, return of the repressed past, ambivalence of heroism, and afterlife of these texts in film, video-games, and comic books.

Texts:  *Beowulf* and some shorter Old English poems, *Grettir’s Saga*, *Njal’s Saga*, *The Saga of the Volsungs*, *The Nibelungenlied.*

Films:  “Beowulf and Grendel”(dir. Gunnarsson, 2005); “Beowulf” (dir. Zemeckis, 2007);  “The 13th Warrior” (dir. McTiernan, 1999); “Thor” (dir. Brannagh, 2011); “How to Train Your Dragon” (dir. DeBlois and Sanders, 2010).

“Romancing the Exotic: L’Esclave blanche (1939) and Cultural Miscegenation”

French fiction cinema of the 1930s built an intricate exotic imaginary that encompasses stories, relationships, and politics that often break away from patterns established in films more strictly defined as “colonial.” The 1939 film L’Esclave blanche [The White Slave Woman] offers a particularly intriguing example of this non-colonial exoticism. Set in Istanbul during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire, the film represents intercultural romance in ways that were unseen in contemporary colonial narratives. Part comedy, part commentary, L’Esclave blanche demonstrates that the exoticist impulse was not confined to representations of empire, but it also shows that even outside the colonies, the West maintained the upper hand.

Date: 10 April 2012 from 13.30-15.30 in the G-160 Seminar Room.
Presenter: Dr. Colleen Kennedy-Karpat is an instructor in the Department of Communication and Design at Bilkent University. Her book manuscript, Rogues, Romance, and Race: Exoticism in French Fiction Cinema, 1930-1939 recently won the Northeast Modern Language Association Book Award.
View a video of L’Esclave blanche.

The Posters of Other Talks

CCI CS – 20 December 2012 – Dr. İpek Çelik

CCI CS – 26 November 2012 – Dr. Michael Meeuwis 

CCI CS – 8 November 2012 – Dr. William Coker

CCI CS – 13 March 2012 – Dr. Daniel Leonard

CCI CS – 6 February 2012 – Dr. Chris Love

2013 – Older Talks

Taking McLuhan Seriously

The media theorist Marshall McLuhan is often dismissed as a trendy television pundit of the 1960s, even if one who occasionally resurfaces with each new media revolution: the internet, smartphones, the cloud. My view is that McLuhan is actually one of the most important figures in the 20th century humanities, one whose basic teachings are still far from exhausted or even understood. In this lecture I will focus on the important features of McLuhan’s “tetrad” theory, according to which all media (that is, all human products) have a fourfold structure of enhancement, obsolescence, retrieval, and reversal. This theory will be examined, and its strengths and weaknesses addressed. For the Poster.

Date: Wednesday, 18 December 2013, from 17.30 to 19.30 in the FF-B06.

Presenter: Dr. Graham Harman is a Distinguished University Professor at the American University in Cairo. He is a philosopher of metaphysics, and one of the founding members of the Speculative Realism movement. Harman is the editor of the Speculative Realism book series at Edinburgh University Press, and (with Bruno Latour) co-editor of the New Metaphysics book series at Open Humanities Press. He is the author of ten books, most recently Bells and Whistles: More Speculative Realism (2013) and The Quadruple Object (2011).

Constructing a Case: Reflections on Comparative Studies

This talk uses an examination of the very different critical receptions of two highly similar novels, Jan Potocki’s Manuscript Found in Saragossa and Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer, as an entry point into an examination of methodologies of comparative literature. Are the similarities between these two novels meaningful, or simply a bizarre coincidence? Examining how one goes about answering this question leads to a broader contemplation of how comparative studies pursue their object of inquiry, and what the underlying premises of those efforts are. What does comparative literature seek to know, and how does it do so?

Date: Thursday, 05 December 2013, from 16.45 to 17.45 in the G-160 Seminar Room.

Presenter: Dr. Katarzyna Bartoszyńska, Assistant Professor, Program in Cultures, Civilization and Ideas, Bilkent University

“Language, Divinity, Difference in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead”

Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead is the journal of elderly minister John Ames, written to the seven-year-old son that he knows he will never live to see grow up. Though quite traditional in his conception of God, Ames nevertheless embraces progressive and even atheistic ideas regarding the divine. My contention is that Gilead resists being read strictly as an exploration of language’s failure to express the transcendence of divinity, or, conversely, solely as an articulation of language’s cryptic capacity to enact such inability. Rather, it troubles this distinction by articulating an in/expressibility that makes divinity discernible as difference.  paper is part of a project on the archival nature of national imaginings: the ways in which the idea of the nation depends upon institutions of collective memory which range from monuments and museums to literature and film. More specifically, this section of the project focuses on the mode of identification associated with these technologies of memory, exploring critically the production of what we might call the “archival subject.”

Date: Thursday, 10 October 2013, from 16.45 to 17.45 in the G-160 Seminar Room.

Presenter: Dr. Andrew J. Ploeg, Program in Cultures, Civilization and Ideas, Bilkent University

The Posters of Other Talks

 CCI CS – 10 October 2013 – Dr. Andrew J. Ploeg

CCI CS – 11 September 2013 – Dr. Daniel Leonard

CCI CS – 26 April 2013 – Professor Felicity Nussbaum

CCI CS – 28 March 2013 –  Dr. Trevor Hope

CCI CS – 27 February 2013 – Dr. Mihaela Harper

2014-2015 – Older Talks

Thursday 4 December 2014 7–10pm

The Challenge of Aesthetic Skepticism and the Importance of Being Profound
Patrick Fessenbecker – Assistant Professor in CCI

The twenty-first century has seen the development and spread of a variety of new methodologies for literary study, from Franco Moretti’s “Distant Reading” to the “history of the book” approaches of Leah Price and others. Despite their diversity, these approaches share a certain refusal: they reject the notion of artistic value as a reason for and justification of literary criticism. In so doing, they represent a natural response to the widespread critique of the concept of aesthetic value as inevitably ideological that dominated cultural studies in the last decades of the twentieth century.

This paper will return to that critique and outline a strategy for responding to it, one borrowed from moral philosophy. In particular, it will argue that so-called “thick” concepts— concepts like “honesty and “honor,” which combine description and evaluation—have been under-utilized in literary aesthetics. Unlike traditional defenses of the literary canon, thick concepts avoid the circular logic of justification through sophisticated form alone. Moreover, they share with the ideological critiques of the aesthetic a rejection of the notion of aesthetic autonomy: to start from thick concepts is to commit oneself to aesthetic pluralism from the start.

Tuesday, 11 November 16.40 – G 160

“The true field and subject of imposture are things not known…. Whence it happens that nothing is more firmly believed than what we know the least….”

Montaigne, Essays, Book I, chapter 32.

From Global Connectivities to Alternative Citizenships: Jhumpa Lahiri’s “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine.”

 Dr. Jeneffer Reimer – American Culture and Literature

Jhumpa Lahiri’s fiction explores the lives of immigrants and U.S. Americans who cross borders both literal and metaphorical: border-crossings rendered elegantly by Lahiri’s well-crafted literary style. Yet because Lahiri has not publicly aligned herself with political or activist canons and traditions, her relationship to the ethnic American or Asian-American literary canon has gone largely unexplored in scholarship on her work. I argue that Lahiri’s work reflects richly on the racial identity and cultural politics of some of its characters, particularly the young protagonist, Lilia, from the short story, “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine.” Lahiri examines questions of identity and cultural politics by illuminating how Lilia navigates competing national narratives, official and unofficial, and envisions an alternative account of citizenship, allegiance, and belonging for second generation characters.

November 10, at 12.40 Swinburne

Dr. AYŞE ÇELİKKOL, Logos, and Deep Time
The Victorian poet Algernon Charles Swinburne’s “Hymn of Man” locates reason both inside and outside the human subject, thus questioning modern secular narratives of self-reliance. This paper focuses especially on Swinburne’s construal of “deep time,” a notion derived from the discovery that the Earth’s history extended far beyond the six thousand years postulated by readings of the Bible. It is especially in portrayals of deep time that Swinburne employs a Heraclitean notion of logos that exceeds the individual subject, positioning the poet outside mainstream discourses of the secular in the Victorian period.

Thursday, April 30, 2015: 12.40-14.00

Reading the Book of the World: What the Humanities Can Teach Us about Climate Change
Dr. Tobias Boes

Associate Professor of German Literature University of Notre Dame
Global climate change presents an unprecedented challenge to the survival of our species—not least because human beings have so far proven remarkably inept at developing the conceptual tools that would be necessary to truly imagine it. The temporal and spatial dimensions are too vast, the causal connections too complex. Everybody understands what weather is, but “climate” is an abstraction, and no effective movement for social change was ever founded on an abstraction. Many prominent theorists of our current ecological crisis have argued that to truly understand climate change will require us to shed our humanist baggage, and to become “post-human.” In my talk, I will take a more modest approach. By focusing on the history of a particular humanist metaphor, namely that of our world as a book that demands to be read, I will demonstrate both the difficulties of humanist thought in the face of catastrophic climate change and, I hope, gesture towards some solutions for our imaginative impasse.
Bilkent University Library Orientation Room: Sandwiches and Beverages Available

Thursday, March 19 12.40-14.00—Bilkent Library Orientation Room

Persevering unto Martyrdom: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and La Respuesta a Sor Filotea
Dr. Buffy Turner

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s repeated invocation of the figure of Phaëthon in her writing suggests a classical analog to her own catastrophic daring in the early modern world of colonial Mexico. Not unlike Phaëthon, whose reckless daring urges him to take over a god’s role, to drive the sun’s chariot, an undertaking which ultimately costs him his life, Sor Juana emerges as a woman writer and cloistered nun overstepping the confines appropriate to her gender and position in the larger ecclesiastical order. By continually inserting herself into a male-dominated literary tradition and taking up modes of discourse deemed morally treacherous, if not publically improper, Sor Juana demonstrates a competence and audacity that outrages Church superiors and initiates her demise. Looking specifically at La Respuesta (1691), I consider the strategies guiding Sor Juana’s rhetorical spearing and the ultimate resignation and silence ushered in by that spearing. But that final surrender and surcease of communication, I suggest, may have been re- conceptualized by Sor Juana as a sort of freedom, so that in practicing the heroism of Phaëthon and mapping her own martyrdom onto that of Jesus, Sor Juana emerges as both agent and victim, hero and martyr, of her own collapse.

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