"Reconstructing" the Ottoman Imperial Harem of the nineteenth century: memoirs of Leyla Saz on the Old Çırağan Palace

Günsoy, Belkıs Harika
This thesis aims to explore the Ottoman Imperial Harem in the second half of the nineteenth century by focusing on the memoirs of Leyla Saz, a well-known poet and musician (1850-1936). Belonging to an aristocratic family, Leyla Saz was admitted to the Çırağan Palace at the age of four as Fatma Sultane’s, (daughter of Abdülmecid) maid of honour and witnessed closely the daily life in the Harem for more than twenty years. Her memoirs, dating 1920, are the earliest examples written by a court member or, in other words, by an insider. They are particularly important for documenting not only the Imperial Harem as a disappeared socio-cultural institution, but also its architectural setting as part of the Old Çırağan Palace, built in 1841 but demolished in 1857. Accordingly, this thesis seeks to reconstruct the Old Palace and its Harem architecturally and culturally by reading these memoirs in parallel to the related historical and theoretical literature. In so doing, it discusses whether the memoirs perpetuate or challenge the orientalist discourses.


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Citation Formats
B. H. Günsoy, ““Reconstructing” the Ottoman Imperial Harem of the nineteenth century: memoirs of Leyla Saz on the Old Çırağan Palace,” M.A. - Master of Arts, Middle East Technical University, 2011.