hafiza kazisi





Literature Series


by Ülker Gökberk

Professor Emerita of German and Humanities
at Reed College, Portland, Oregon

Moderated by Engin Sezer,
Linguist, formerly of Harvard University

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2023 | 2:00 pm (EST) | Online


excavating memory

Bilge Karasu’s Beyoğlu Narratives: Inscriptions of the Past through Space

In this presentation Ülker Gökberk will explore the acclaimed Turkish fiction writer Bilge Karasu (1930-1995) in a new light by focusing on his poetics of memory. The author’s posthumously published narratives on Istanbul’s Beyoglu, once a cosmopolitan neighborhood called Pera, attest to the collective as well as personal remembering of a bygone era.

Karasu established his fame as an experimental modernist; however, while themes such as sexuality, gender, and oppression have received critical attention, an essential tenet of Karasu’s oeuvre, the evocation of ethno-cultural identity, has remained unexamined.

Through his non-referential and ambiguous renderings of memory, Karasu gives in his Lağımlaranası ya da Beyoğlu (Mother of Black Waters or Beyoğlu) unique expression to ethno-cultural difference in Turkish literature and lets through his own repressed minority identity. Walter Benjamin’s (1892-1940) autobiographical work serves as a premise for illuminating Karasu’s evocation of the past. The comparative approach in this lecture brings into dialogue two representative writers of the twentieth century over temporal and spatial distances.


Ülker Gökberk is Professor Emerita of German and Humanities at Reed College.

She earned her undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Istanbul University. After completing her Ph.D. in Germanics at the University of Washington, she joined the faculty of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, in 1986.

The methodology and themes of her teaching and scholarship have been inspired by the paradigm intercultural German studies. In her publications she focuses on models of cultural encounter and difference. Gökberk has worked with texts by German authors, ranging from Thomas Mann to Siegfried Lenz, as well as with immigrants’ literature by Turkish-German authors.

Her publications on modern Turkish literature include essays on Orhan Pamuk and Bilge Karasu. Aesthetic representations of displacement remain an ongoing concern of Gökberk’s critical inquiry. In Excavating Memory: Bilge Karasu’s Istanbul, Walter Benjamin’s Berlin (Academic Studies Press, 2020; Turkish translation: Hafıza Kazısı: Bilge Karasu’nun İstanbul’u, Walter Benjamin’in Berlin’i, Metis Yayınları, 2022) Gökberk explores her authors’ poetics of remembrance through the textual tableaux of early twentieth century Berlin and of the bygone cosmopolitan Pera-Beyoğlu.

Gökberk continues her teaching at Portland’s Literary Arts.