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  • David Selim Sayers (a1)

The sociosexual world of the premodern Middle East has been studied through a variety of sources ranging from legal documents to shadow theater. Most such sources are either prescriptive or transgressive: they uphold or subvert a normative framework, telling us more about the framework itself than about how it was inhabited by subjects in everyday life. This study introduces the Tıfli stories as a descriptive source that transcends the prescriptive–transgressive dichotomy. An Ottoman-Turkish genre of prose fiction produced at least from the 18th to the 20th century, the Tıfli stories were a protorealist form of “pulp fiction.” Where most sources sought to stabilize specific sociosexual roles, the Tıfli stories explored the ambiguities inherent in these roles. This study employs the Tıfli stories to interrogate understandings of the Ottoman sociosexual world that rely strongly on normative sources and to stage an approximation of how norms were negotiated in practice.

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1 I am following the time frame established by El-Rouayheb, Khaled in Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500–1800 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

2 Ze'evi, Dror, Producing Desire: Changing Sexual Discourse in the Ottoman Middle East, 1500–1900 (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2006), 167 .

3 El-Rouayheb, Before Homosexuality, 127.

4 Najmabadi, Afsaneh, Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2005), 243 .

5 See, for instance, Andrews, Walter G. and Kalpakli, Mehmet, The Age of Beloveds (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2005).

6 El-Rouayheb, Before Homosexuality, 11.

7 Ibid., 10.

8 Ze'evi, Producing Desire, 10.

9 Ibid., 48.

10 Schick, Irvin Cemil, “Representation of Gender and Sexuality in Ottoman and Turkish Erotic Literature,” Turkish Studies Association Journal 28 (2004): 81103 . The explicit content of these works did not, however, bar them from polite society: “The presence of eminent mainstream scholars among the authors and translators of these works is noteworthy, as is the fact that many were commissioned by and/or presented to imperial patrons.” Ibid., 84.

11 Ze'evi, Producing Desire, 125.

12 Ibid., 143.

13 This exaggeration can be found, for instance, in the “debate between ‘women-lovers’ and ‘boy-lovers’” as described by Kuru, Selim in “Sex in the Text: Deli Birader's Dafi‘ü ’l-gumum ve Rafi‘ü’l-humum and the Ottoman Literary Canon,” Middle Eastern Literatures 10 (2007): 157 .

14 Here, the karagöz genre with its prominent female characters would present an exception.

15 Mahmood, Saba, Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005), 19 .

16 Ibid., 22.

17 Elçin, Şükrü, “Kitabi, Mensur, Realist İstanbul Halk Hikayeleri,” in Elçin, Halk Edebiyatı Araştırmaları (Ankara: Kültür Bakanlığı Milli Folklor Araştırma Dairesi Yayınları, 1977), 130 .

18 Titles of works in larger collections are given in quotes, titles of alone-standing works in italics.

19 This is also the name of an Ottoman genre.

20 The last two stories are found in the same volume.

21 Koçu, Reşad Ekrem, Aşk Yolunda İstanbul'da Neler Olmuş (İstanbul: Doğan Kitapçılık, 2002).

22 Nihat Özön, Mustafa, Türkçede Roman (Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 1985 [1936]); Boratav, Pertev Naili, Halk Hikayeleri ve Halk Hikayeciliği (Ankara: Milli Eğitim Basımevi, 1946); Elçin, Halk Edebiyatı Araştırmaları; Kavruk, Hasan, Eski Türk Edebiyatında Mensur Hikayeler (Istanbul: Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı Yayınları, 1998).

23 Sayers, David Selim, Tıfli Hikayeleri (Istanbul: Bilgi Üniversitesi Yayınları, 2013).

24 I acknowledge the help of the staffs at Beyazıt Devlet Kütüphanesi, İstanbul Üniversitesi Nadir Eserler Kütüphanesi (both Istanbul), Milli Kütüphane (Ankara), Erzurum Atatürk Üniversitesi Kütüphanesi (Erzurum), and Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna).

25 On the life of the historical Tıfli Ahmed Çelebi, see Köprülü Zade Mehmed Fuad (Fuad Köprülü), “Tıfli Ahmed Çelebi,” in İslam Ansiklopedisi, ed. Tahsin Yazıcı et al., vol. 12 (Istanbul: Milli Eğitim Basımevi, 1974), 234.

26 Kavruk, Eski Türk Edebiyatında, 70.

27 See, for instance, Nutku, Özdemir, Meddahlık ve Meddah Hikayeleri (Ankara: Atatürk Kültür Merkezi Başkanlığı Yayınları, 1997), 85 .

28 Menzel, Theodor, Meddah, Schattentheater und Orta Ojunu (Prague: Orientalisches Institut, 1941), 3 .

29 Meddahs were urban storytellers who performed their stories with the aid of mimicry and basic props at coffee houses and similar public gathering spots.

30 See Saim Sakaoğlu, “Hançerli Hanım Hikayesi,” in Dünden Bugüne İstanbul Ansiklopedisi, ed. İlhan Tekeli, vol. 3 (Istanbul: Kültür Bakanlığı ve Tarih Vakfı Ortak Yayını, 1994), 547; and Dino, Güzin, Türk Romanının Doğuşu (Istanbul: Cem Yayınevi, 1978).

31 İnal, İbn-ül-Emin Mahmud Kemal, Son Asır Türk Şairleri, ed. Cunbur, Müjgân (Ankara: Atatürk Yüksek Kurumu Atatürk Kültür Merkezi Yayınları, 1999), 1:151. The author in question is Ali Ālī, writer of Hançerli Hikaye-i Garibesi. On the topic of Ottoman prose authors concealing their identities out of fear of ridicule, see Elçin, “Kitabi, Mensur, Realist,” 130; and Kavruk, Eski Türk Edebiyatında, 5–6.

32 For Atayi, see Kortantamer, Tunca, Nev‘i-zade Atayi ve Hamse'si (Izmir: Ege Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Yayınları, 1997), 99 , 420. For Aşki, see Nutku, Meddahlık, 93.

33 Evin, Ahmet Ö., Origins and Development of the Turkish Novel (Minneapolis, Minn.: Bibliotheca Islamica, 1983), 38 .

34 See Artan, Tülay, “Mahremiyet: Mahrumiyetin Resmi,” Defter 20 (1993): 91115 .

35 Evin, Origins and Development, 35.

36 Peirce, Leslie P., “Seniority, Sexuality, and Social Order: The Vocabulary of Gender in Early Modern Ottoman Society,” in Women in the Ottoman Empire: Middle Eastern Women in the Early Modern Era, ed. Zilfi, Madeline C. (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 174.

37 El-Rouayheb, Before Homosexuality, 26.

38 On this topic, see Andrews and Kalpakli, The Age of Beloveds.

39 Heyd, Uriel, Studies in Old Ottoman Criminal Law (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), 82 , 126. This edict from the time of Süleyman I (r. 1520–66) is quoted in Peirce, “Seniority, Sexuality, and Social Order,” 180.

40 Peirce, “Seniority, Sexuality, and Social Order,” 177.

41 Ibid., 183.

42 Ibid., 181.

43 Ibid., 184.

44 David Selim Sayers, “The Wiles of Women in Ottoman and Azeri Texts” (PhD diss., Princeton University, 2014), 25–26.

45 Peirce, Leslie P., The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), ix.

46 Ibid., 9.

47 Ze'evi, Producing Desire, 68.

48 El-Rouayheb, Before Homosexuality, 25.

49 Peirce, The Imperial Harem, ix.

50 Andrews and Kalpakli, The Age of Beloveds, 51.

51 Ze'evi, Producing Desire, 65.

52 On Ottoman arranged marriages, see Faroqhi, Suraiya, Kultur und Alltag im Osmanischen Reich (Munich: C. H. Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1995), 120 .

53 Najmabadi, Women with Mustaches, 20.

54 Ibid. See also Kuru, “Sex in the Text,” 164–65.

55 El-Rouayheb, Before Homosexuality, 19.

56 Ibid., 45–46.

57 For a detailed treatment of this stereotype, see Sayers, “The Wiles of Women.”

58 Ze'evi, Producing Desire, 136.

59 On the absence of the female–female pairing in the Ottoman legal tradition, see Peirce, “Seniority, Sexuality, and Social Order,” 174; Andrews and Kalpakli, The Age of Beloveds, 172; and Ze'evi, Producing Desire, 65.

60 El-Rouayheb, Before Homosexuality, 66.

61 In Deli Birader's work, according to Kuru, “their pleasure is not considered at all. They are either taken by force or sodomised by a trick.” Kuru, “Sex in the Text,” 163.

62 Andrews and Kalpakli, The Age of Beloveds, 143.

63 For the status of the beloved as “pin-up,” see also El-Rouayheb, Before Homosexuality, 82.

64 “‘Uşşāk-i dil-figār, mumaileyhin cumaları kangi cami-i şerife azimet ve kangi mesirede ārām ve istirahat edeceğini bir haftadan bir haftaya tahkik ve tecessüse hasr-i evkat edip, köşebaşlarında ve çarşı ve pazarda nice efgende-i biçare, zār ü hayran olarak hiç olmazsa pederi tarafından bir selama muntazır olurlar idi.” Hançerli Hikaye-i Garibesi, 6. Transliterations in the endnotes follow Sayers, Tıfli Hikayeleri.

65 The beloved as gigolo is also a motif found in later karagöz. See Ze'evi, Producing Desire, 148.

66 “Bir taraftan harap olduksa da bir yandan asar-i yavru-i talih, rū-nümā oldu. Bundan böyle sefa üzere olmanızı memul ederim.” Hançerli Hikaye-i Garibesi, 49.

67 “Sekiz dokuz gündür sen benim ile zevk edip sefa mı sürdün, ya n'ola şimdi bana bir avrat sayd etsen, ben de bu gece senin sayende avrat ile bir zevk eylesem olmaz mı?” “Hikayet,” 27a.

68 See Ze'evi, Producing Desire, 92.

69 On how this line could be drawn in a legal context, see Massad, Joseph, Desiring Arabs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 31 .

70 “Bir söz anlar zarīf ādem yok ki anınla sohbet ideyim benim söylediğim sohbeti anlasun ve cevāba kudreti olsun böyle bir ādeme mālik olmadım.” “Tayyarzade Hikayesi,” 4.

71 “Hareme girdiği vakit yüzime bakmaz gice sā‘at altıya yediye varınca kadar hareme gelmez sakal agardı yine ferāgat itmedi.” Ibid., 14. On the issues of matrimonial discord and disapproval of visibly aged male pursuers, see also Najmabadi, Women with Mustaches, 23–24, 29.

72 “Tıfli Efendi Hikayesi,” 87–88.

73 “V'Allahi birāder benim ‘ömrimde zen-pārelik etdiğim yokdur anamı bile sevmem.” “Hikayet,” 26a. Connections between bachelorhood and boy-love are also mentioned in El-Rouayheb, Before Homosexuality, 29.

74 Ibid., 28.

75 For a similar point in relation to the 19th-century Ottoman novel, see Parla, Jale, Babalar ve Oğullar: Tanzimat Romanının Epistemolojik Temelleri (Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 1993).

76 Regarding the legal standing of slaves in the Ottoman Empire, Ze'evi points to a consensus that “Slaves, not having full jurisdiction over their own bodies, should also have diminished legal responsibility, [while] free men and women should be punished more severely.” Ze'evi, Producing Desire, 55.

77 Peirce, The Imperial Harem, 7.

78 “Doğru söyle. Eğer senden böyle iş zuhur etti ise seni çırak edip beye veririm. Eğer yalan söyler isen ben bilirim sana edeceğim işi”; “Eğer doğru söylesen idi seni azat edip Yusuf Şah'a verecek idim, çünkü yalan söyledin, seni katledeyim.” Leta’ifname, 99.

79 “Hey zalim, sen bana hem iyilik ve hem kötülük ettin ise ancak sevda-i nefsin üzerine ettin.” Hançerli Hikaye-i Garibesi, 108–9.

80 See Malti-Douglas, Fedwa, Woman's Body, Woman's Word: Gender and Discourse in Arabo-Islamic Writing (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991); Merguerian, Gayane K. and Najmabadi, Afsaneh, “Zulaykha and Yusuf: Whose ‘Best Story’?,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 29 (1997): 485508 ; Mills, Margaret A., “Whose Best Tricks? Makr-i Zan as a Topos in Persian Oral Literature,” Iranian Studies 32 (1999): 261–70; and Sayers, “The Wiles of Women.”

81 Najmabadi notes an eyewitness report from the 1880s in which “A Hajj Muhammad Kabuli, on his way back from Mecca through Istanbul, observed in distress that on the streets of Istanbul some Muslim women walked with their faces and heads uncovered.” Najmabadi, Women with Mustaches, 135–36.

82 Peirce, “Seniority, Sexuality, and Social Order,” 181.

83 “Erkekte Çavuşzade ve nisada efendim gibi güzel görmedim, amma bendeniz Çavuşzade'ye āşık olduğum cihetle Çavuşzade'nin bir kılın sencileyin on kıza değişmem”; “Aferin Cevri Çelebi, āşık olunca böyle gerektir.” Hikaye-i Cevri Çelebi, 21.

84 “Bilmedim efendim, derisini yüzerdim, ancak, efendim, buldurup ibretiālem eyleyeyim.” Ibid., 25.

85 “Kutu kapağın bulmuş.” Ibid., 32.

86 Prostitutes and ladies are executed in stories such as Leta’ifname, 152; “Tayyarzade Hikayesi,” 62–63; and Meşhur Tıfli Efendi ile Kanlı Bektaş’ın Hikayesi, 31.

87 For instance, Tıfli falls into the Bosphorus while trying to avoid detection of his involvement with beloveds. “Tıfli Efendi Hikayesi,” 93.

88 For weddings of both beloveds and levends, see “Hikayet,” 46b–47a; and Hikaye-i Cevri Çelebi, 32. Sansar Mustafa, the levend in “Hikayet,” is married off to the sister of Ahmed, his boy-beloved.

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
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