Mihri Hatun: A Women, A Poet, A Beloved

Duke lecturing fellow Didem Havlioglu presents on the Ottoman female poet Mihri Hatun.

When Mihri Hatun (circa 1460-1515) claimed in her above-mentioned lines that it is not the biological sex of a person but intelligence what determines his/her potential, she was one of the only three women in the early-modern Ottoman literary circles. She is also the first Ottoman woman who collected her divan [poetry collection] and presented to Sultan Bayezid II who honored her with monetary awards. Mihri’s existence as a woman poet in the overwhelmingly male literary world of the early-modern times is a curious instance as she does not only claim a space as a “woman,” but a respected space as a Muslim woman in literary circles. Based on my comparative analysis of her and her contemporaries’ writings, I argue, her success can be explained as follows: first, the Islamic literary aesthetics and intellectual history can allow gendered voices; second, as she was very well-versed in literary and religious texts, she knew how to legitimately stretch the limits of the aesthetic and intellectual traditions of her time.

Havlioglu's presentation was supported by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center.