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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Comparative Literature

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Catherine Portuges

Second Advisor

Don Eric Levine

Third Advisor

Ela Gezen

Fourth Advisor

Asuman Suner Zontul

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature | Film and Media Studies | German Literature | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures


Fatih Akın's feature films Head-On (2004) and The Edge of Heaven (2007) resonated strongly with Turkish, German and Turkish German communities, albeit for diverse reasons, opening spaces for debate with regard to subjectivites that foreground their alterity and redefine readings of national identity. This dissertation addresses ways in which the melodramatic modality of Akın's films partake in such debates by presenting a dialogic genealogy of melodramas from Turkish, German and Turkish German contexts. An analysis of Fontane's novel "Effi Briest" and of R.W Fassbinder's Fontane Effi Briest and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul; Atıf Yılmaz's O Beautiful Istanbul; and Yılmaz Güney's The Herd suggests ways in which these texts and films inscribe different aspects of alterity, situating the subjects of these narratives in disruptive relationships with national and transnational identitarian discourses.

I examine these melodramatic narratives and the impasses they constructfor their subjects together with the relationship of the films' uses of mise-en-scène to further complicate notions of ethnic and other modes of belonging. Divergent modes of distanciation and identification from different filmic traditions in Turkey and in Germany constitute a multivalent nexus through which I approach Akın's films. The ambivalence of the protagonists' affective states sets up another point of critical inquiry from which I utilize notions of performativity to critique interiorized and exteriorized readings of affect. I trace articulations of the realistic registers in these works, seeking the fissures where the melodramatic modality reveals itself to allow the directors to leave open the subjects' alterity. Finally, I link certain plot-lines to the "stranded objects" of Turkish and German national histories, including histories pertaining to the Nazi past in Germany, the erasure of the Ottoman cosmopolitan cultural nexus and the nomadic modes of existence of the Kurdish population in Turkey. I then posit ways in which these objects come to interact with transnationally determined subjectivities in the films of Akın. The dialogic genealogy I propose intervenes in current critical debates on melodrama as a trans-generic mode and on transnationality in cinema that look beyond paradigms of nationalism(s) towards a diverse articulation of subjectivities that resist reification by dominant identitarian discourses.