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Prof. Dr. Ahmet Edip Uysal
1922-1997
Dean, Faculty of Letters
Near East University

Occasional Papers: 1
Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative
Texas Tech  University 1993
by Warren Walker, PhD

Few people have enjoyed a career as diverse and full as that of Ahmet Edip Uysal.  A teacher in higher education for more than forty years, a university administrator for more than a decade, and a very active folklorist for  a third of a century, he has added dimensions to the lives of thousands in his own country and abroad.

Prof. Dr. Uysal was a member of the Liberal Arts Faculty of Ankara University from 1948 until 1982.  Colleagues and alumni of that institution remember him for his moving lectures on American and English poetry and for his empathy with English Romanticism. A nature lover himself, he had an affinity with the pantheism of William Wordsworth, widely acknowledged as a key figure in the development of the Romantic Movement in Western Europe.  During the formative years of the Universities in Turkey’s more remote provinces---especially during the 1960s and 1970s---Ahmet Uysal devoted a great amount of time and effort to directing programs of graduate students at Atatürk University (Erzurum) and Fýrat University (Elazýð).  When severe winter weather closed airports in eastern and southeastern Turkey, he shuttled back and forth between Ankara and those areas by bus.  He has since then had the gratification of seeing a number of his graduate protégés attain significant professional stature.  Ahmet Bey  held Distinguished Visiting Professorships at the University of Cologne during the academic year 1963-1964 and at Texas Tech University between 1966 and 1968.  He has delivered lectures at the Universities of Cambridge, London, and Edinburgh.  Even after he moved into academic administration, he continued to teach a class or two every semester throughout most of the 1980s.

In 1982 Ahmet Uysal was appointed Dean of Education at Middle East Technical University.  Besides administering a broad area of the METU curriculum, he was also responsible for the operation of the Language Academy at which a great many students increased their English proficiency to a level that would enable them to take courses taught in English.  When he reached the age that required his retirement from the deanship,  Dr. Uysal became Director of Publications for the university. In 1992 he accepted the position of Dean of the Faculty of Letters at Near East University, a dynamic new institution at Lefkoþa (Nicosia) in the North Cyprus Turkish Republic.  Who but Ahmet Uysal would undertake such a challenging assignment at the age of seventy?

However distinguished have been his teaching and administrative functions, Ahmet Uysal may well be best remembered for his scholarly accomplishments. So extensive is the list of his professional publications that it cannot be included in a paper of this length.  Long a member of the Translation Bureau of the Ministry of Education, he has translated a score of volumes over the years, some from English to Turkish, others from Turkish to English.  Among the former are his renditions into Turkish of Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys, Alexander Kinglake’s Eothen, and Kenneth Goldstein’s A Guide for Field workers in Folklore.  The Turkish works he has Englished range from the belletristic (The Book of Dede Korkut—A Turkish Epic) to the documentary (A History of the Turkish Military Establishment).

In the study of Turkish culture , especially that transmitted by the oral tradition, Ahmet Uysal’s contribution has been unique.  Few have collected as much Turkish folklore as he, and certainly no one has tape recorded as many performances.  Between 1961 and 1974 he logged more than 12,000 miles of fieldwork back and forth across rural Turkey, where traditional narrative remained relatively uncorrupted by urban mass media.  He understands and appreciates village life style, and he is keenly sensitive to the peasant temperament.  All of his writing attests to this rustic savoir faire, and nowhere is that more evident than it is in Tales Alive in Turkey, volumes which he coauthored in 1966 and 1992 respectively.

There is a remarkably generous side to the character of this senior scholar.  Regardless of how crowded his own professional schedule may be, he can always find time to help a colleague, to accept leadership of a group project, or to make the world in general better acquainted with Turkish culture.  Of his many outreach efforts only a few of the more typical can be cited here.  In 1957 he led an international tour of the famous Mehter Band, a marching military ensemble of early Ottoman origin; this group climaxed its three month North African and European itinerary with thirty-five performances in the Castle Esplanade as part of the annual Edinburgh Festival.  In 1970 he was one of the cofounders of the Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative.  Early in 1988 he planned and coordinated the Turkish unit of  UNESCO’s multinational program to film folk raconteurs narrating in village settings.  The following year Dr. Uysal took two noted minstrels of Kars (Murat Çobanoðlu and Þeref Taþlýova) to London where they sang their lengthy and saz accompanied tales at sessions of the Third International Storytelling Festival.  Of  far broader scope has been Uysal’s organizing work in behalf of large-scale scholarly meetings.  Most impressive has been his role as Secretary-General of all four of the international congresses on Turkish folklore sponsored by the Ministry of Culture between 1975 and 1991.

Ahmet Uysal has come a long way from his birthplace at Doðla, a tiny village in the Karacabey kaza of Bursa province.  His quest for knowledge has carried him to far-flung corners of the earth, but his dedication to the Turkish tradition has never faltered.  In a spiritual sense, he has never left home.


Go Back to Uysal-Walker Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative
Uysal Walker Türk Öykürleri Sandığı'na Geri Dönüş

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