This essay compares and contrasts Turkish author Halide Edib’s novel The Shirt of Flame (Duffield & Company, 1921) to the second volume of her memoirs, The Turkish Ordeal (The Century Company, 1928). Both texts have female protagonists and parallel plots and take place during the Allied occupation of Istanbul (1918–23). Both texts are manifestations of an emerging Turkish national master narrative. By highlighting the tensions between the first-person narratives of the novel, the memoir, and the emplottment of the national master narrative, this essay offers an analysis of tensions between cosmopolitan Islamic feminism and secular nationalism. This essay describes how memoir (whether an actual memoir, such as The Turkish Ordeal, or a fictional memoir, such as The Shirt of Flame) constructs the object of its knowledge (the feminist self), and furthermore, how the feminist self can be read either as constitutive of national allegory (as in The Shirt of Flame) or as an allegorical critique of patriarchal nationalism (as in the English-language The Turkish Ordeal). The essay concludes by showing how Halide Edib’s perspective allows for a gendered reading of the national master narrative and the Orientalist/ nationalist binary upon which it is predicated.

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