The Melodramatics of Turkish Modernity: Vurun Kahpeye [Strike the Slut] and its Cinematic Afterlife
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Proposing melodrama as an aesthetics of victimhood, my dissertation examines the intermedial itineraries of notable feminist Halide Edib’s Vurun Kahpeye [Strike the Slut]. Originally serialized in 1923 and published as a novella in 1926 in Ottoman Turkish, Vurun Kahpeye was translated into modern day Turkish in 1946. The melodramatic story was then adapted for screen three times in 1949, 1964, and 1973, respectively, by Ömer Lütfi Akad, Orhan Aksoy and Halit Refiğ. With the circulation of these films on TV, the title Vurun Kahpeye has since the 90s morphed into an idiom designating the unjust treatment of the innocent. The persistent repetition of Vurun Kahpeye across media, I suggest, signifies melodrama’s aesthetic durability due to its affective excess: its efficacy in making a disaffected public experience its own victimhood. Thus, my dissertation provides an archeology of melodrama as a political technology through a reading of each of Vurun Kahpeye’s media iteration as embedded in its socio-historical context. In this account, the affective medium of cinema emerges as the main site for the formation of a secular mass public by linking secularism to structures of feeling rooted in victimization, suffering, and injury. And yet, the affective excess of melodrama, I demonstrate, renders Vurun Kahpeye’s normative project unstable and uncontainable with each iteration. At different moments in time, Vurun Kahpeye is a queer text exposing the heteropatriarchal nature of secular nationalism; lays the infrastructural, spectatorial, and aesthetic foundation of the classical cinema of Turkey; and serves as the project of a social realist, counter-populist, and anti- Western theory of cinema. Therefore, this dissertation traces the conflicting projections, aspirations, and feelings central to Turkish republican modernity that congeal and clash in, through, and around Vurun Kahpeye.