This comprises the tradition of written and oral literature established by the Turks throughout history, and also the products of that tradition. The historical development of Turkish literature is studied under three main categories: pre-Islamic Turkish literature, the Turkish literature that developed under the influence of Islamic civilization, and that which developed under the influence of the West. This classification was made in the light of the characteristic influence of the religious and cultural orbits which the Turks entered.
Pre-Islamic Turkish Literature
According to historians, the Turks emerged from Central Asia. Not all of the cultural products of the Turks of Central Asia have survived down to the present day. Bearing in mind that, the first written documents in Turkish dated the 6th century.it is very likely that we do not possess the basic documents of the literature of that time.
The Oral Tradition: The oral products of the period were written down in the Divanü Lugati't-Türk (Dictionary of Turkish languages) written by Mahmud of Kashgar in the 11th century. Poetry enjoyed pride of place in the oral literary tradition. The first poets, known as shamans or minstrels, read their poems out to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument called a 'kopuz,' similar to a lute. Aprinçur Tigin, çuçu, Kül Tarkan, Çısuya Tutung, Asıg Tutung, Sungku Seli and Kalım Keyşi are among the first poets examples of whose works have survived.
The Written Tradition; The first texts written in Turkish were the Yenisey inscriptions from the 6th century and the Orhun inscriptions from the 8th. The Orhun inscriptions, of the commemorative-annunciatory kind, are full of information about the Turks' social life, culture and art.
The Turkish Literature That Developed Under the Influence of Islamic Civilisation
Following the adoption of Islam by the Karahan ruler Satug Buğra Khan in the mid-10th century, the Turkish world began to enter the orbit of a new civilisation. The Turkish tribes that migrated westward carried the influence of that civilisation into the world of literature. Mahmud of Kashgar's Divanü Lugati't-Türk was written to teach Arabs Turkish. Yusuf Has Hacib dealt with the philosophy of state based on Islamic principles in the 11th century Kutadgu Bilig. Ali Şir Nevai developed Chagetai Turkish as a rich language of art and culture. The Turkish tribes that migrated to Anatolia played an important role in the emergence of a new literary tradition. The literature, the first examples of which emerged in the 13th century in Anatolia, developed along two separate lines: Court Literature and Popular Literature.
Court Literature: The literature developed by Ottoman intellectuals who were principally raised in medreses (mosque complexes) and who took Arab and especially Persian literature as their role models is known as 'Court Literature.' It is also referred to a 'class' or 'Islamic Age' Turkish literature. Persian translations predominated during the early years of the literature (13th-15th centuries). The first poets, such as Ahmed-i Dai, Kadı Burhaneddin and Şeyhi generally wrote religious verse. In the transitional period (15th-16th centuries) the palace and circles linked to it gave this literary form particular support, and examples of prose began to emerge alongside verse (Ahmed Paşa, necati, Mercimek Ahmed, Alıkpaşazade, Sinan Paşa etc.). During the mature period of court literature (16th-18th centuries) one sees that after the stages of derivation and external influence, original creation was now taking place. An effort was made to adapt local content to classıcal forms. New tendencies were experimented with, especially the new poetic style known as 'Sebk-i Hindi' (Fuzuli, Bâkî, Bağdatlı Ruhi, Nabî, Nef'i, Nedim, Şeyh Galib, Evliya Çelebi, Kâtip Çelebi, Naima, Veysi and Nergisi).
Popular Literature: This area consists of folk tales, folk songs, proverbs, riddles and village performance shows, the creators of which are either unclear or unknown. Dervish literature can be regarded as popular literature with a religious content. Mysticism's broad tolerance and manner of expression resulted in the emergence of an independent strand in this literary tradition. Dervish poetry would be read to the accompaniment of tunes known as 'ilahi' or 'nefes.' Although containing elements of Arabic and Persian, the language employed in dervish literature was intended to be clearly understood. The quatrain and syllabic metre were used throughout. The most important representatives of this form of literature are Yunus Emre, Nesimi, Kaygusuz Abdal, Hacı Bayram Veli, Hatayi and Pir Sultan Abdal. Another strand in popular literature is minstrel music, which takes in the period from the 16th century to the present day. These minstrels would travel around Anatolia with a stringed instrument called a 'saz,' establishing a tradition and refusing to be cast down by life. Some examples of these are Karacaoğlan, Aşık Ömer, Dertli, Dadaloğlu, Erzurumlu Emrah, Bayburtlu Zihni, Rusati, Sümmani, Aşık Veysel and Ali İzzet Özkan.
Turkish Literature under Western Influence
After the 18th century, efforts were made in Turkish (Ottoman) society to move into the orbit of Western civilisation. Following developments in the military and political fields, these began to be felt in literary life as well. Writers who had seen the West and were closely acquainted with it were the first heralds of this new literature. The appearance of the newspaper 'Tercüman-ı Ahaval' in 1860 is generally accepted as the start of the literature that developed under the influence of the West. Being neither official nor semi-official, the paper was the first to be brought out under a private initiative. The period it is regarded to have ushered in is further divided into sub-periods: The Administrative Reform, the Servet-i Fünun, Fecr-i Ati, National Literature and Republic and after periods.
1. Important names in the Administrative Reforms Period: Namık Kemal, Şinasi, Ahmet Mithat, Ziya Paşa, Mahmut Ekrem, Abdülhak Hamit, Samipaşazade Sezai etc.
2. Important names in the Servet-i Fünun Period: Recaizade Mahmut Ekrem, Tevfik Fikret, Cenab Şahabeddin, Halit Ziya Uşaklıgil, Mehmet Rauf etc.
3. Important names in the Fecr-i Ali Period: Ahmed Haşim, Emin Bülent Serdaroğlu, Hamdullah Suphi Tanrıöver, Fuad Köprülü, Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu etc.
4. Important names in the National Literature Period: Ömer Seyfettin, Mehmet Akif Ersoy, Halide Edip Adıvar, Reşat Nuri Güntekin etc.
5. Important names in the Republican Period and after: Ziya Osman Saba, Yaşar Nabi Nayır, Nazım Hikmet, Orhan Veli Kanık, Oktay Rıfat, Cahit Külebi, Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar, Peyami Safa, Kemal Tahir, Aziz Nesin, Necati Cumalı, Selim İleri, Fakir Baykurt, Orhan Pamuk etc.