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The Turk's Encounter with Defoe


1 In certain parts of this essay, I draw on my recent and current studies on Defoe: “The Enlightened Turk: A Discontinuation of Orientalism in Defoe’s A Continuation of Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy,” Positioning Daniel Defoe’s Non-Fiction: Form, Function, Genre, eds. Aino Mäkikalli and Andreas K.E. Mueller (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, forthcoming) and “How Novel is the First Novel?: Robinson Crusoe and Hayy bin Yaqzan,” The American Society of Eighteenth Century Studies, 40th Annual Meeting, Richmond, Virginia, Mar. 26-29, 2009.

2 Beyazit is a phonologically Turkified version of the Ottoman Bayezid.

3 The Battle of Nigbolu, 1396.

4 A title which is used interchangeably with the “sultan” in medieval, early modern, and modern travelogues; a literal translation from the Italians, who had close relations with the Grand Porte of Constantinople along with the Genoese.

5 There is no consistency among the sources about the nationality of Timur. Whereas some identify him as a Mogul, others depict him as half Turkish half Mogul. Still others, like Marlowe, describe him as a Turk.

6 For more on Orientalism, see Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1978; rpt. London: Penguin, 2003).

7 Shakespeare, Othello, in The Norton Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al, 2nd ed. (New York and London: Norton, 2008), 2137. For an extensive analysis of the image of the “Turk” in Shakespeare’s plays, see my “Shakespeare and the Turk,” Interactions: Ege Journal of British and American Studies 18.1 (Spring, 2009).

8 The full title is A Continuation of Letters Written by a Turkish Spy at Paris: Giving an impartial Account to the Divan at Constantinople of the most Remarkable Transactions of Europe, and discovering several intrigues and Secrets of the Christian Courts, especially of that of France; continued from the year 1687, to the year 1693.

9 John Milton, Paradise Lost, in The Riverside Milton, ed. Roy Flannagan (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998), 365.

10 For an extensive analysis of Marana’s text, see Ros Ballaster, Fables of the East: Selected Tales 1662-1785 (New York: Oxford UP, 2005) and Fabulous Orients: Fictions of the East 1662-1785 (New York: Oxford UP, 2005).

11 Here I am giving examples exclusively from the French paintings as these are relatively well known rather than their British counterparts. William Allan’s The Slave Market, Constantinople, Frederick Leighton’s Odalisque, John Faed’s Bedouin Exchanging a Slave for Armor are examples of British orientalist depictions. The titles of the paintings indicate the nature of their contents.

12 Daniel Defoe, “A Continuation of Letters Written by a Turkish Spy at Paris (1718),” in Satire, Fantasy and Writings on the Supernatural by Daniel Defoe, ed. David Blewett (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2005), 43-241; 218.

13 I say, “popularized canon” as my studies on a multiplicity of genres from travelogues to letters to many other fictional and non-fictional writings show that there is actually more work like Defoe’s Turkish Spy which portray positive images of the Turk and which speak more objectively of Islamic cultures. However, these works have been left in the critical shadows. A major part of my research is focused on these texts.

14 Defoe, “Turkish Spy,” 62.

15 Ibid., 63.

16 James Joyce writes “The first English author without imitating or adapting foreign works to create without literary models, […] to devise for himself an artistic form which is perhaps without precedent, except for the brief monographs of Sallust and Plutarch, is Daniel Defoe, father of the English novel”; see “Daniel Defoe,” in Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe: A Norton Critical Edition, ed. Michael Shinagel (New York: Norton, 1994), 320-1. Ian Watt also identifies Defoe’s work as the first example of the novel genre in “From the Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding,” Theory of the Novel: A Historical Approach, ed. Michael McKeon (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins UP, 2000), 363-82.

17 This tradition of long names, being named after one’s father, signifies the reverence for the past and an adoration of what has previously been said and written rather than a crude attempt to be original.

18 For example, see Gerald Maclean and William Dalrymple, eds, Re-Orienting the Renaissance: Cultural Exchanges with the East (New York: Palgrave, 2005).

19 For more on Islamic philosophy and the connection between Greek tradition and Muslim philosophers see George Saliba, Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance (Massachusetts: MIT, 2007) and Oliver Leaman, A Brief Introduction to Islamic Philosophy (Malden: Blackwell, 1999).

20 Hayy Bin Yaqzan was also translated into Hebrew in the fourteenth century and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there were Dutch, German, French and Spanish translations. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Chapman and Hall in London published a new edition of the Ockley translation; in 1972 a new translation was published in New York and another was issued in 1982 in London. The most recent edition was published by Cambridge University Press in 2005.

21 Hassan, Hayy bin Yaqzan and Robinson Crusoe (Republic of Iraq: Al-Rashid House for Publication, 1980).

22 Cited in J. Paul Hunter, “The ‘Occasion’ of Robinson Crusoe,” in Robinson Crusoe, Norton Critical Edition, 336, and The Reluctant Pilgrim: Defoe’s Emblematic Method and Quest for Form in Robinson Crusoe (Johns Hopkins UP, 1966), 9.

23 For more on these bibliographic details, see Hassan, 135, 6-7.

24 Riad Kocache, “Preface,” in Ibn Tufail, The Story of Hayy bin Yaqzan, trans. Riad Kocache (London: The Octagon P, 1982), xi.

25 The most comprehensive of these studies are Lamia Mohamed Saleh Baeshen, “Robinson Crusoe and Hayy Bin Yaqzan: A Comparative Study,” (Diss. U of Arizona, 1986), and Nawal Muhammad Hassan, Hayy Bin Yaqzan and Robinson Crusoe: A Study of An Early Arabic Impact of English Literature, (Republic of Iraq: Al Rashid House of Publication, 1980).

26 In the 1993 Norton Critical Edition of Robinson Crusoe, to give an example, there is an extensive chapter on “Contemporary Accounts of Marooned Men,” another one on autobiography and allegoric history, and yet another chapter on the Puritan culture. There are also more than three dozen literary critiques on the work put in chronological order since the eighteenth century. Most of the critics and writers represented in the volume elsewhere acknowledge Hayy bin Yaqzan and its influence on, or at least its connection with, Robinson Crusoe. However, in the Norton edition, Hayy bin Yaqzan goes unrecognized.

27 Of course this is a rough statement which itself misrepresents my nuanced study on the issue (but I believe the point is still valid); see my “Shakespeare and the Turk.”  


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