Benefacta 2004: Ball State University in the Community
Distinguished Dissertation

Carolyn Goffman

Years spent living in Istanbul, including a year teaching at Bogazici (Bosphorus) University, helped Carolyn Goffman mold the themes found in her doctoral dissertation, titled "More Than the Conversion of Souls": Rhetoric and Ideology at the American College for Girls, Istanbul, 1871-1923.

Bogazici University is situated on the site of the former American-founded Robert College, whose archives became the center of research for Goffman's dissertation. She explored how American educational operations in the Middle East reacted to changes in the social and political milieu preceding World War I.

"My project brings together theory and practice from several disciplines," Goffman explains. "I took questions from my areas of study and research—postcolonial theory, gender theory, and the rhetoric of education—and applied them to the American colleges in Turkey." 

Goffman addressed her questions through an extensive perusal of the archived college correspondence, catalogs, and official reports, as well as faculty-generated articles and
student writings. From these documents, she pieced together a picture of the institution's changing image and purpose in the pre-war period. The result is a multifaceted work proposing new avenues for the application of postcolonial theory in studying non-Western educational projects.

Now a visiting assistant professor in the English department at DePaul University in Chicago, Goffman is presently studying the reactions of Americans in Beirut and Istanbul to the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, a major topic within her dissertation. In comparing these two groups of Americans, she recently visited archives in Beirut, where she carried out what she considers to be the highlight of any academic endeavor.

"The very best part—the part I look forward to every time I start something new—is archival research," Goffman says. "You never know what you will find, and you usually end up going in a totally unexpected direction."