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NEAR E 286 A: Themes In Near Eastern Literature

NEAR E 286
Meeting Time: 
MW 3:00pm - 5:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
C LIT 362 A
Selim Kuru
Selim Sırrı Kuru

Syllabus Description:

C LIT 323 Pamuk and Modern Turkey.jpg  

NEAR E 286 A / CLIT 362 A

Orhan Pamuk and Modern Turkey


 Discover the worlds Orhan Pamuk constructed in his novels!  

imagine your possible selves through novel form, narrative thinking, and creative activities 

Challenging binaries of East/West, Empire/Nation through vibrant imagery and penetrating stories, the Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk's fiction presents histories of Modern Turkey and interrogates its place in the world. As the translations of his novels into 63 languages imply, the worlds he creates have struck a chord across the globe. 

This course approaches two novels by Pamuk to discuss the novel as a genre and its relevance today, the place and function of the novelist in our times along with ideas of empire and nation. The course includes verbal and visual assignments and encourages students to develop projects that incorporate their ideas, interests and work to the reading material and course discussion

VLPA, Writing Credit available. 

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 Course Topics and Learning Goals 

Orhan Pamuk, through his novels, memoir and essays, constantly interrogates the in-betweenness between West and East, and specifically Turkey and Europe that results in a solitary protagonist. His characters pursuing to find themselves succumb into fantastic journeys across Turkish realities that, according to Pamuk, were shaped under the shadow of an imagined, idealized and desired Europe. Approaching critically to two novels and some essays from Pamuk, this course offers students historical knowledge of novel genre and modern Turkey as well as:

  • An understanding of the making of a global author in the 21st century
  • Analysis and discussion of masculinity as constructed through the history of novel form.
  • Knowledge of novel as a transformative genre
  • In-betweenness in diverse and challenging environments
  • Diversity and possibilities of other worlds
  • Developing a healthy sense of curiosity to establish empathy about others.
  • Methods of reading, and ways of narrating a reading experience.
  • Verbalization of visual experience and the relationship between the two. 

 Course activities 


Two novels will be read together as a class. Instructor will provide information about Orhan Pamuk's background along with an analysis of his success and summaries of the author's unassigned novels  through lectures. Lectures will involve structured Q&A sections and discussion. Lectures will be live through Zoom once a week.

Reading groups:

Students will take part in a reading group activity. Each group will read one or two novels by Pamuk through the quarter. They will establish a timeline and discussion of the novel(s) assigned to them. One live course meeting will be reserved for reading group meetings and mini presentations. The reading groups will compare and contrast the novel(s) they read with the assigned two novels and essays. They will decide on a way of keeping a record of their experience and sharing their reading process with a focus on spaces, characters, events, and objects discussed in the novel(s). 


There will be weekly assignments that students will according to the instructions either upload in a dropbox or on their personal Reading Journal; a google doc they will share with the instructor. Reading groups will prepare a project together, either in the form of a web-site, a blog, a twitter account, or in another medium that will be approved by the instructor. Individual students will submit one mid-term on My Name is Red and a comparative final paper on all course reading material centered around the novel Snow. 


(Three books are available through UBookstore; descriptions below are from Goodreads)

Orhan Pamuk, Naive and Sentimental Novelist

What happens within us when we read a novel? And how does a novel create its unique effects, so distinct from those of a painting, a film, or a poem? In this inspired, thoughtful, deeply personal book, Orhan Pamuk takes us into the worlds of the writer and the reader, revealing their intimate connections. He ponders the novel's visual and sensual power--its ability to conjure landscapes so vivid they can make the here-and-now fade away. In the course of this exploration, he considers the elements of character, plot, time, and setting that compose the "sweet illusion" of the fictional world.

Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red

At once a fiendishly devious mystery, a beguiling love story, and a brilliant symposium on the power of art, My Name Is Red is a transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, from one of the most prominent contemporary Turkish writers.
The Sultan has commissioned a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land to create a great book celebrating the glories of his realm. Their task: to illuminate the work in the European style. But because figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this commission is a dangerous proposition indeed. The ruling elite therefore mustn’t know the full scope or nature of the project, and panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears. The only clue to the mystery–or crime? –lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Part fantasy and part philosophical puzzle, My Name is Red is a kaleidoscopic journey to the intersection of art, religion, love, sex and power.

Orhan Pamuk, Snow

A spellbinding tale of disparate yearnings – for love, art, power, and God – set in a remote Turkish town, where stirrings of political Islamism threaten to unravel the secular order. Blending profound sympathy and mischievous wit, Snow illuminates the contradictions gripping the individual and collective heart in many parts of the Muslim world. But even more, by its narrative brilliance and comprehension of the needs and duties 

+ Two short novels for Reading Group projects

+ Short pieces, videos (available online)


Participation (discussions and brief exercises) %10

Reading journal assignments %20

Two short papers (one midterm one final) %25

Reading group projects %20

Final project submission %25


Catalog Description: 
Significant and interesting aspects of Near Eastern culture and society as represented by literary themes. Aspects of Near Eastern life and art such as women, minority groups, mysticism, and modern literature. Content varies. May not be taken for credit if credit earned in NEAR E 330.
GE Requirements: 
Social Sciences (SSc)
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
February 1, 2021 - 12:59pm