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12. From a Critique of the Orient to a Critique of Modernity: A Greek-Ottoman-American Writer, Demetra Vaka (1877–1946)

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Chapter Summary

This chapter pursues the argument that, writing for an American audience, Demetra Vaka was responding to ideological currents in her American environment. It also argues that while presenting the Orient to Western audiences, in underlining her differences from the Victorian-Edwardian middle-class worldview, she clearly diverges from mainstream bourgeois values both as a writer and as a woman. The chapter describes how Vaka was born into and raised in a Victorian-bourgeois cultural milieu and discusses how this affects her early perceptions of the Orient. It traces the influence of middle-class ideology on Vaka's ideas. The Enlightenment values that Vaka acquired through reading found a living counterpart in the Greek bourgeois culture of late Ottoman Empire. Vaka's intellectual and personal trajectory, her critique of the Orient entwined in a feminist revolt which culminated in a critique of modernity, evinces dilemmas of the modern self, experienced more acutely by women than by men.

Keywords:critique; Demetra Vaka; enlightenment; Greek bourgeois culture; middle-class ideology; modernity; orient; Ottoman



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