Literature, besides being a vehicle of change was also the sphere in which the 19th-century spirit of change manifested itself. In the “West”, as a result of encounters with specific genres of “Oriental” folk literature, and as a reaction to 18th-century rationalism, romanticism became the dominant style in literature and in art. Romantic and scholarly Orientalism was a product of this interplay. In Arab and Ottoman lands, neoclassicism in literature of all genres as well as the relative proliferation of women writers was an outcome of this interaction. Regardless of their literary affiliation, whether to neoclassicism or romanticism, Arab and Ottoman authors, influenced by Europe, shifted their focus to new themes such as social justice, the rights of women, civil rights and nationalism.
A Scene from the Turkish Harem
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Second half of the 17th century
Pera Museum, Istanbul, Turkey
Franz Hermann, Hans Gemminger
Oil on canvas
This painting by two Austrian artists is supposed to demonstrate certain aspects of the daily life of Ottoman women. As the text explains, unable to go outside the women were entertaining themselves inside, with music and dance.