Changing pleasures of spectatorship : early and silent cinema in Istanbul
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This project explores a curious facet of early cinema that has not been studied as yet: the relationship between Turkish modernity and the culture of spectatorship within the context of the late nineteenth century’s viewing habits along with the era of early and silent cinema in Istanbul. The aim of this project is to examine the evolution of viewing habits in Istanbul at a particular period in which a radical cultural transformation was experienced, namely from the 1890s to the 1930s, when the late Ottoman era with its pre-cinematic shows, the cinematograph, and silent films led to the early Turkish Republic and the end of silent cinema. In order to cover the shift in the reception of early cinema, this study makes use of revisionist works on early cinema and on modernity in Ottoman history. To this end, newspapers, novels, memoirs and consular trade records that formed the majority of the primary sources of this project are analyzed. The transformation of Istanbulite spectatorship was initially experienced through a rupture in the late nineteenth century created by the global flow of mechanical images. The cinematograph was viewed by a multi- ethnic public that was accustomed to seeing both traditional and other more widely recognized pre-cinematic shows such as the shadow play, public storytelling, dioramas, panoramas and magic lanterns. At first the early cinematograph displays were haphazard and parts of other shows. Yet, the international influence of the early cinema attracted a curiosity-driven public even if the same public was critical of the imperfect technology of the apparatus. With the outbreak of World War I, nationalist resistance played a role in the reception of popular European films, particularly Italian melodramas. The end of the war caused the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the foundation of the Turkish Republic, after which, cinema started to be seen as an educational tool in the service of nation-building.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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