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A Writer without Borders: Grace Ellison’s An Englishwoman in a Turkish Harem
Füsun Çoban Döşkaya (Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir) [BIO]
Grace Ellison, an ardent suffragette and a feminist journalist, demanded independence for women, and felt that it was her duty to report the truth about the Turkish women to the Western world. From the days of Sultan Abdul Hamid up to the end of 1920s, she chronicled Turkey’s failures and achievements. She differed from the suffragettes of her time as she made cross-cultural comparisons and challenged Orientalist stereotypes by establishing close contacts with several Turkish women living in the harems.
This study is about Grace Ellison’s first single-authored book, An Englishwoman in a Turkish Harem (1915). In her preface to the book Ellison makes it clear that her book is generated from her reports for the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph. She presents the book as an ‘Englishwoman’s impressions of Turkish harem life, written during a very happy and interesting visit amongst Turkish friends’ (vii). As Teresa Heffernan and Reina Lewis argue in the new introduction to the book it ‘starts out with a title full of evocative terms’ (ix) like ‘Englishwoman’ and ‘Turkish harem.’ By the time Ellison published this book (1915), she was alone in a field defined by men, and she used her gender as an advantage to enter harems. She studied Turkish life at a time when ‘few English women and no English men’ were ‘privileged to study [it] at first hand’ (xiii). This book sheds light into the domestic life in elite homes at the turn of the century in Istanbul as the writer tries to get rid of borders of female society that are built to protect them from the intrusion of the other world.
By concentrating on this social commentary of Grace Ellison, this study aims to analyze one of the perfect examples of harem literature, which emerged during the 19th century as a subgenre of travel writing, with all its references to harem, veil, women and landscape, and show how cultural interactions lead to social transformations in the personality of Grace Ellison.
Patron: President of Austria, Dr. Heinz Fischer
KCTOS: Knowledge, Creativity and