Schizophrenic Narrative as Subversive Political Act in Women’s Writing

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Ulus H. E.

LIES IN/ON THE NET "Literary [Non-]Fiction in Times of Crisis”, Poznan, Poland, 13 - 14 May 2021, vol.1, pp.1-2

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • Volume: 1
  • City: Poznan
  • Country: Poland
  • Page Numbers: pp.1-2


This paper examines how Sevim Burak’s short story entitled “The Window” (“Pencere” published in 1966) uses schizophrenic narrative with a politically subversive style. Sevim Burak is a Turkish author known for her plays, novel and short stories. Her works hold a significant place in Turkish literature and in the relatively short history of Turkish modernity. In Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature, and Thought, Louis Sass defines some of the basic characteristics of schizophrenic discourse with “the lack of a cohesive theme or narrative line, of conventional space-time structure, of comprehensible causal relations, and of normal regulation of the symbol-referent relationship” (156). Similarly, schizophrenic narrative is a literary technique that is quite modern (Sass, 158, 184).

Interested in here and now, the protagonist is somehow cannot conform to the social norms of his/her society, and uses a reality-bending narrative to shape his/her world through a creative use of language. In the example of Burak’s “The Window,” the central character establishes a unique relationship with the outer-world, in which the self is at the centre of all the things and events. The protagonist’s playful technique cannot be reduced to random shifts in the plot, but she also plays with the notion of time and literary perspective. To be more specific, Sevim Burak’s “The Window” melts time --the past-the present-future--all in the now or the present of the narrator’s time. In addition to this, the doppelganger, or the literary double of the protagonist enables her not only to look at herself from the outside, but also incites the reader to question what real(ity) is and what it means. Sevim Burak’s short story “The Window” (1966) is a literary response to traumatic experience created and/or aggravated by social values. In this state of non-conformity, protagonist’s identity crisis is not merely articulated through literature: when the protagonist depicts her plight through schizophrenic narrative, she also subverts the traditional and androcentric mad-woman narrative that goes long way back in human history. In this respect, “The Window” shows its readers that literary works have the potential not only to narrate but also to challenge social inequalities, as the protagonist continuously shapes and re-shapes the world, as she likes. For these reasons, Burak’s short story stands out as a literary fiction that contributes to Turkish modernity thanks to its modern perspective and creative use of its schizophrenic narrative. This paper contributes to literary studies on schizophrenic discourses in literature by analyzing Sevim Burak’s unique literary response to the state of crisis, as well as by showing how modernisms are multiple, and how a prominent Turkish woman writer rejects and resists conventional roles of a society.