The Relationship Between Art and Politics in the 19th Century Ottoman Empire: Institutionalization, Change and Continuity
Traces of Ottoman Political Incidents in Nineteenth Century Wandering Minstrel Epic PoemsArmağan Coşkun
Epic poems represent the oldest genre of Turkish literature inherited by the ozan-baksı and wandering minstrel traditions. As in previous periods, epic poems of the 19th century were works of art relating political incidents that occurred within the Ottoman State. They recorded the personalities who influenced the empire in the19th century and specifically described a society in flux, detailing the evolution of social, political, and cultural dynamics across the Ottoman territories. The epics of the period represent one of the most significant sources for the structural and functional analysis and understanding of this process of sociocultural change. Epic poems recounted historical incidents and were not influenced by artistic anxieties; hence, they could reflect past and present social realities. The first anonymous tellers of the epic poems were wandering minstrels. The epic poems represent the origins of social history in Anatolia in terms of their contemplation and analysis of cultural changes. They describe social shifts and developments, explain the social structures of the period in which they were performed, and reveal the psyches of their contemporaries. They disclose the ideas, lifestyles, beliefs, and values of their times. Apart from being valued as living representatives of an ancient wandering minstrel tradition, many wandering minstrels trained in the nineteenth century can also be viewed as significant sources of political and social events. Given their sensitivity toward political and social incidents they had experienced, the wandering minstrels of the 19th century produced numerous works of epic poetry. They perceived it as their duty to perpetuate the essence of folklore, recount historical incidents, and narrate the events of the Ottoman wars. The wandering minstrels experienced or witnessed these historical incidents and transformed them into poetry in their epics, which reflected the 19th century as supplementary sources of history. Thus, epic poems can substantially establish the connections between art and politics. They can also be viewed as oral historical texts that may be utilized as research sources in history and other disciplines to achieve a comprehensive basis for the reconsideration and re-establishment of extant theories.