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Günseli Gürel

Günseli Gürel
University of Oxford
Osmanlı Sarayı’nda ‘Acâib, Sihir ve Canavarları Resmetmek, 1574–1603

Dr. Gürel, Oxford Üniversitesi’nden doktora derecesine sahiptir. Araştırma projesi, doktora tezini gözden geçirip genişleterek “Osmanlı Sarayı’nda ‘Acâib, Sihir ve Canavarları Resmetmek, 1574–1603” başlıklı bir monografiye dönüştürmektir. Monografi, Osmanlı sarayının, antik dünyanın ve uzak diyarların ‘acâibini resmetmeye yönelik eşi benzeri görülmemiş ilgisini araştırmaktadır. İki amacı vardır: İlk olarak, Osmanlı sarayının antik dönemi İslam ve Osmanlı’nın bugünü ile nasıl uyumlu olarak inşa ettiğini ve Osmanlıların bu kadim bilgeliğin mirasçıları olarak nasıl sunulduğunu göstermek ister.

İkinci olarak, Hint Okyanusu ve Amerika kıtasındaki halkların ve yerlerin Osmanlı resimli el yazmalarındaki önemini ilk kez ortaya koyacak ve erken modern keşiflerin Osmanlı gözlemcileri için nasıl bir merak kaynağı olduğunu tartışacaktır.

Söz konusu dönemde doğaüstünün temsilini bir bağlam içinde değerlendiren akademik literatürün çoğu Rönesans Avrupası’na odaklandığından, Osmanlı kültürel perspektiflerine dair bu incelemeler, erken modern kültür tarihinin sömürgecilikten arındırılmasına katkıda bulunacaktır.

Owing to the ANAMED staff, who are going out of their way to provide us the perfect environment to focus on our work, I am having a very productive fellowship. My research explores late sixteenth-century Ottoman illustrated prose on wonders and marvels. Depictions of the marvellous and magical in Ottoman manuscripts have been overlooked as curious fancies, entertainment, or mere superstition. This neglect is in part due to the limitations of our post-Enlightenment point of view that renders “real” and “imaginary,” “nature” and “supernatural” in terms of binary oppositions. But the significances of “marvellous” and “magical” were fundamentally different in premodern cultures, where wonder was a central mental category based on awe and astonishment in the face of the unknown. Thus, rather than questioning the authenticity of Ottoman portrayals, I use them to discuss the cultural perspectives of the bookmakers and intended audiences. Seen in this way, far from just nice-looking pictures of bizarre beliefs, Ottoman Books of Wonders are crucial sources to better understand the little-known religious beliefs and intellectual practices of the Ottoman court, as well as the history of cross-cultural interactions in the early modern world.

My fellowship project is to revise and expand my doctoral dissertation into a monograph, currently entitled Picturing Marvels, Magic and Monsters at the Ottoman Court, 1574–1603, that explores the unprecedented interest in illustrating wonders of the ancient world and distant lands in the Ottoman court through previously unknown or understudied illustrated manuscripts. Drawing on the growing scholarship on European, Persian, and South Asian perceptions of identity and alterity through literary and visual representations of wonders, the book contextualises Ottoman depictions within the broader framework of cultural history in this period. As such, it brings together the study of Ottoman interest in the occult, art, the ancient past, and faraway lands, which have often been examined in isolation from each other. The goals of the book are two-fold: firstly, it will demonstrate the ways in which late sixteenth-century Ottoman artists and writers constructed alternative worlds for their audiences beyond their own time and space. Secondly, it will reveal how Ottoman imaginings were shaped by, and in turn, shaped, Ottoman engagement with diverse supernatural and historical traditions of non-Islamic cultures and early modern discoveries, as well as the human diversity of the non-Ottoman world.

During the ANAMED fellowship, I worked on including much-needed expansions to the book. Although I researched and gathered relevant sources on late-sixteenth-century courtly depictions of marvels, magic, monsters, and miracles for my thesis at manuscript libraries of Istanbul, London, Paris, and New York, my focus was limited to the books of wonders and occult works. To present a more comprehensive understanding of the perceptions held by the ruling elite of that era, in Picturing Marvels, I intend to delve into such contemporary illustrated manuscripts containing stories of the prophets and romances set in other places and times. I have already collected the digital copies and completed the codicological analysis of most of this material. While evaluating their images and texts, as a research fellow in Istanbul, I am conducting fieldwork with visits to the sites, buildings, and museums to explore sources and models of images of the antique past. This is significant because, during my dissertation research, I could not explore the development of the imagery of ancient wonders in Ottoman texts. Since pictorial representations of antiquity, especially sculptures, were unprecedented in the Ottoman painting tradition, research to determine their sources, conceptual models, and theoretical underpinnings is likely to expose hitherto unknown connections. I am particularly interested in understanding the ways in which Ottoman encounters with the Greco-Roman material culture of the “lands of Rum”—originally referring to former Byzantine territories and later to the Ottoman lands in Anatolia and the Balkans—and of Constantinople, in particular, influenced responses to the past.

With the discussions I have had with fellow researchers, who are experts with QGIS software, I decided to include a GIS map of the location of wonders, aiming to show whether certain places were associated with them. This map can be integrated into the publication or shared online through an open-access initiative, potentially expanded on by researchers working on marvellous geographies. To effectively map and analyse Ottoman ways of seeing the world, I have dedicated substantial time to intensive training on QGIS software throughout this year.

Additionally, I have attended two international conferences this year and presented papers, receiving constructive feedback. The first one was one organized by the Institute for Mediterranean Studies/FORTH and the Research Project GHOST: Geographies and Histories of the Ottoman Supernatural Tradition: Exploring Magic, the Marvellous and the Strange in Ottoman Mentalities on “Knowing and controlling nature in Ottoman culture: scientific and occultist approaches in a global perspective,” on 16–18 November 2023. I presented a paper entitled “Ancient Wisdom in Ottoman Books of Wonders (1595–1603).” The second one was the 18th International ANAMED Annual Symposium, “Anatolian Cornucopia: Drugs, Elixirs, and Spices between Leisure, Medicine, and Morality.” The paper I presented in the symposium was entitled “Making the Invisible Visible: Depictions of Natural Things in the Late Sixteenth Century Ottoman Court.” This paper formed the base of the chapter I submitted to the volume, Anatolian Cornucopia: Drugs, Elixirs, and Spices between Leisure, Medicine, and Morality edited by Alexis Wick and Kerem Tınaz. The volume is scheduled to be released by Koç University Press as part of the ANAMED series in 2025. My chapter in the volume investigates the role of natural philosophy in the political and intellectual life of the Ottoman palace. I submitted another article, “Picturing the New World Marvels: Ottoman Paintings of Flora and Fauna and Political Discourse in the Tārīḫ-i Hind-i Ġarbī (1583/4),” for publication in June 2024 as part of the fourth issue of Acaʾib: Occasional Papers on the Ottoman Perceptions of the Supernatural. This article explores how Ottoman depictions of the New World contributed to the political messages in the text. I am also working on an article that builds on an extended essay that I wrote for my Transfer of Status, exploring the transformation of the monastery of Hagios Andreas en te Krisei in Constantinople to the Koca Mustafa Pasha Mosque complex at the end of the fifteenth century. The article contextualises the conversion of a typical late Byzantine church into a mosque that emulated the distinctive superstructure of the Hagia Sophia by investigating the political visions, building practices, and patronage patterns at work. I draw on the growing scholarship on Ottoman responses to the imperial legacy of Byzantium and the cultural and religious policies in the reign of Bayezid II (r. 1481–1512), a crucial time in the conversion of the religious sites of Istanbul.

Furthermore, earlier in the year, I was invited by Asst. Prof. Kerem Tınaz to deliver a lecture on the early modern Ottoman manuscript culture as part of Hist 203-Ottoman Classical Age course. The lecture included a manuscript viewing session for the students, which we organized with the generous help of archivists and librarians Mustafa Ergül and Didem Ülüş Bektaş. The aim of this session was to introduce the multidimensional nature of Ottoman manuscript cultures. More often than not, reading was a form of sociability, and the Ottomans, unlike us, tended to produce and enjoy their books collectively. By showcasing a diverse selection of manuscripts from the Suna Kıraç Library Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection, we delved into the interactive processes of production, consumption and use, while illustrating how reading and writing were forms of sociability in the Ottoman world.

I conclude by thanking ANAMED staff for all their support and my fellow fellows for making this a memorable year in many ways.