Fall 2024

Ottoman Modern

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-389  |  History, as HIST-389


Monica M. Ringer (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST-389 [ME/TC/TE] and ASLC 389) The Ottoman Empire underwent a process of intense reform in the nineteenth century. Reformers were determined to strengthen their countries’ sovereignty vis-à-vis increasingly aggressive European imperial powers and embarked on a series of measures designed to improve their economies, political institutions and militaries. Reformers were also concerned to generate a new public, and develop modern citizens imbued with new civic, political, literary and artistic sensibilities. Europe served as one important source of inspiration for Ottoman reformers. Reformers were in conversation with European modernity, even as they were in conversation with their own traditions. This course explores the complex relationship between preservation and change, between admiration and rejection, both of Ottoman and European ideas, institutions and cultures that characterized the nineteenth-century reform process. We will move beyond the oversimplification and distortion inherent in the paradigm of “adoption vs. rejection” and instead seek to conceptualize the complex relationship with Europe, and with the Ottomans’ own traditions, as a process of translation from the ‘traditional’ to the ‘modern.’ The course focusses on the construction of an Ottoman Modern through an examination of literature, art, ideas and institutions. Conducted as a reading seminar.

Enrollment is limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Ringer.

How to handle overenrollment: discretion of professor

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Close analysis of historical evidence, which may include written documents, images, music, films, or statistics from the historical period under study. Exploration of scholarly, methodological, and theoretical debates about historical topics. Extensive reading, varying forms of written work, and intensive in-class discussions.

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Spring 2023, Fall 2024