The term ‘classical’ refers to two types of literature, scholarly and popular, that appeared before the Westernization process that reached its peak during the reforms of the Tanzimat (1839-1876). The first type, known as the divan literature (Divan Edebiyatı) (Ottoman poetry) and strongly influenced by the Arabic and Persian languages from which it draws its vocabulary and style, is best expressed in poetry. Court poetry, consisting of stanzas of two or four lines rich in allegory, is the essence of this literature and focuses on skilfully composed rhymes and measures. Baki (1526-1600), Fuzuli (c.1483-1556), Nedim (c.1681-1730), and Nefi (1572-1635) are considered pioneers of this literature, whose golden age was in the 16th century. Nefi is especially known for his satirical poetry. Şeyh Galip (1757-1798) is considered the last of the great classical poets. Prose required important intellectual and encyclopaedic resources. It narrates journeys, as in the case of the book Seyahatname by Evliya Çelebi (1611-1682) and the chronicles of historians Mehmet Neșri (died c.1520) and Mustafa Naima (1655-1716). Finally, the political-historical treatises, which evoke the stories of princes, such as those by Koçi Bey (died 1650) and Katip Çelebi (1609-1657), are considered part of this type of classic literature.
The classic popular literature, of which Yunus Emre (c.1240-c.1321) is considered a pioneer, is distinguished by the accessibility of its language and its references, which are often of Sufi origin. Beginning with the challenges of the Alevi or Qizilbash communities in the 16th century against the relatively egalitarian Turkmen tribes and inspired by the messianic Persian Shiites in the Ottoman Empire, this poetry also emphasized the doctrine of vahdet-i vücud (unity of existence), opposed by the Sunni religious establishment, which gave birth to the Alevi oral literature, as exemplified by the work of the 19th-century mystic poet Edib Harabi (1853-1917): ‘While God and the universe did not exist We have created and proclaimed them to be. While there was still no space worthy of Him We welcomed God into our home as a guest. He did not have a name yet. What am I saying? He did not even exist. He had neither clothes nor appearance. We gave Him form to make Him human.’