Reading the Journey to the Orient: Between Reality and ImaginationSelin Gürses Şanbay
Gérard de Nerval, who created his travel writings by considering the romantic viewpoint within the framework of realism, described the various spaces, lives, people, events, etc. that he witnessed. Meanwhile, geocriticism, which is a method of literary analysis and theory that incorporates the semiotics of geographic space, tackles this issue through different methods. As for geocritical theory, while the center of a narrative discourse is the space, space semiotics examines the area in which the space and the subject’s points of existence merge. Thus, the present study focuses on the representation of Istanbul in the Journey to the Orient by Gérard de Nerval. More specifically, it interprets the data based on the theory of Orientalism by propounded by Edward W. Said in his book of the same name. As a result, it will help determine whether the binary categories are imaginary/real or foreign/familiar, while belonging to the observed, sensed, and represented space.
Düşsel ve Gerçek Arasında Doğu’da Seyahat’i OkumakSelin Gürses Şanbay
Ondokuzuncu yüzyıl Fransız yazınının romantizm akımına dâhil olan yazarlarından Gérard de Nerval şiirleri ve öyküleriyle olduğu kadar gezi yazılarıyla da döneme damgasını vurmuştur. Romantik bakış açısının yöntemlerini gerçekçilik çerçevesinde ele alarak gezi metinlerini oluşturan yazar bulunduğu uzamları, tanıklık ettiği yaşamları, insanları, olayları, vb. gerçek ve düşsel arasındaki bir alanda okuruna sunar; bu sunma biçimi incelememizin de göstereceği gibi hem gerçeğe hem düşsele aittir. Doğu’nun mistik havasıyla romantik bir atmosfere dönüşen şehirler Nerval’in metninde adeta birer başrol oyuncusuna dönüşür. Öte yandan yazınsal uzam günümüzde yazın araştırmalarında ele alınan önemli konulardan biridir. Yapıtta yer alan uzamın yeniden sunumunu bir odak merkezi olarak ele alan Coğrafi eleştiri kuramı ve uzam ile özne arasındaki ilişkiyi inceleyen uzam göstergebiliminin önerdiği yöntemler, bu sorunsala farklı işlem ve yöntemlerle yaklaşır. Coğrafi eleştiri kuramı için anlatının merkezinde uzam yer alırken, uzam göstergebilimi öznenin uzamı nasıl algıladığı ve uzamla öznenin varlık alanlarının birleştiği alanda ortaya çıkan gerilimi incelemektedir. Bu çalışmada, Nerval’in Doğu’da Seyahat adlı yapıtındaki İstanbul’un yeniden sunumu ve özne tarafından nasıl söylemleştirildiği uzam üzerine geliştirilen iki yaklaşım ışığında incelenecek ve elde edilen sonuçlar özellikle yazınsal uzamlar üzerine Edward Said’in geliştirdiği Şarkiyatçılık teorisi ışığında yorumlanacaktır. Sonuç olarak bu incelemede yapıtta sunulan uzamın yani gözlemlenen ve duyumsanan İstanbul’un, şairin söyleminde yüklendiği düşsel/gerçek ya da yabancı/yerel gibi anlam değerlerini ortaya çıkarmak amaçlanmaktadır.
With the acceptance of various methods offered by the sciences, such as phenomenology and the theory of signs, and the methods proposed by linguistics and semiotics in literature research after structuralism; the field of literary research is no longer object-oriented. Instead, it focuses on the subject and it has shown transformation in an uninterrupted process. In this regard, it is not only important to understand the meaning of the subject, but also two additional subjects, as markers of the utterances in the narrative discourse. Known as “temporality” and “spatiality”, they no longer anchor the text to a place and time, and have no function other than creating a perception of reality.
When examining previous research on literary space, objective methods, such as geocriticism and spatial semiotics emerge, and they are scientifically based on analysis and not on interpretation. According to Bertrand Westphal, who is the main figure in geocriticism, multi-layered and space-centered geocritical literature places the space at the center, instead of the subject perceiving the space. Conversely, spatial semiotics aims to determine the meaning of the narrated, represented, fictive, or real space when it comes to literary space, which is different from architecture and urban studies. In this process, the transference of the observing subject is in the primary position because in semiotic method-based readings, the space in the subject’s field of existence, which transforms the subject from the observer to the sensing subject or cognitive subject, is examined.
The traveling writer, who assumes the role of the observer in his/her narration, aims to transform the discourse from objectivity to subjectivity by freeing the representation of the space from the monopoly of observation (i.e., seeing). Its purpose is not only to observe the space, but also to experience it by placing it at the center. In other words, it means experiencing it from a “native” perspective. In this regard, Istanbul, one of the spaces in the Journey to the Orient by Gérard de Nerval, is no longer far, but is near, since he (i.e., the subject) places himself inside/ and not outside of this space.
When a semiotic reading is created, spatial semiotics prioritizes the perceptions of the observer or subject, especially since it addresses the relationship between subject/ space, rather than placing the literary space at the center. In addition to cognitive and practical processes, the importance of aesthetic systems is based on the principle of placing priority on perceptions. Again, Istanbul, which Nerval presents as a “mystical,” “mysterious,” “dazzling,” and “magical” space, can be described in line with these principles.
Through his words, Nerval takes the discourse of “the city that gives pleasure and sweet dreams” from the objectivity of the canonical travel discourse, and transforms it into a space between reality and imagination. This feature can be clearly seen in the spatial use of imaginary words, such as “mirage,” “dazzling,” and “daydream,” and words that fall into the realm of broken reality. Due to this feature, Said placed Nerval in a different place among 19th century travelers within the framework of Orientalism. He also mentioned that Nerval’s space was not a coded, reduced, and ciphered one, but rather an Orient that was experienced as a space full of possibilities in the plane of aesthetics and imagination.
Furthermore, Istanbul plays different roles in the narrative. For example, the city, whose representation as a system of opposing values, changes the functions of the subject as well as the aesthetic effects on the perceiving subject, thus causing the perspective to shift between the two aspects. This difference then allows the reader to easily pass between the temporal and spatial layers of the narrative, and adopt the subjective perception of the narrator.
Finally, Gérard de Nerval does not choose between reality and imagination in Istanbul, but presents both as values of the city. It is as if the imaginary melts into reality, and reality takes its aesthetic value from the imaginary. Therefore, from the poetry of its cemeteries to the brightness of its nights, and from the harsh reality of the strict rules imposed by the geography and society based on Oriental mysticism, Istanbul appears as a system of opposing values for Nerval.