The Other Geography: Representations of the Turkish Landscape in English Travel Writings
Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Letters. Hacettepe University
Keywords: Renaissance, Turkish Landscape, English Travel Writings, Turkey, Geography
During the Renaissance and in the post-Renaissance period, the European idea of travel was based on two fundamental paradigms: exploration and cultivation. However, especially from the eighteenth century onwards, with the worldwide expansion of European imperialism and colonialism, in addition to these two paradigms, various other and often antagonistic paradigms, which were intrinsically associated with the imperial ideology, came to characterize European travellers' attitude towards other peoples, cultures, and geographies in general and towards the Orient and Turkey in particular. It was in this context that a growing number of English travellers, who visited Turkey, began to write detailed and descriptive accounts of their observations and impressions of Turkish life, society, culture, history, institutions, and geography. On the one hand, by situating Turkey within the traditional myth of the exotic and mysterious East, and, on the other, by perceiving it as the inhospitable geography of alien others, most of these accounts display a blend of fact and fiction and embody a contradictory attitude of innocent romanticism and arrogant realism. In essence, they seem to exhibit a dichotomy arising from the opposition of the self and the other. This is most clearly seen, for instance, in Lady Montagu and Richard Chandler in the eighteenth century, in Alexander Kinglake in the nineteenth century and in Gertrude Bell and Freya Stark in the twentieth century. Since travel is essentially a confrontation of two cultures alien to each other and is informed through the cultural distance between the self and the alien other, in the writings of these English travellers this confrontation is voiced sometimes openly and sometimes implicitly with reference to various aspects of Turkey. One important aspect, which has not yet received full critical attention, is the dichotomic depiction of the Turkish geography. So this paper, which mainly focuses on Montagu, Chandler, Kinglake, Bell, and Stark, is an exegetical and critical study of the changing ways in which the Turkish landscape has been perceived and represented by English travellers.