The most important literary activity of the Ottoman period, Divan Literature, which many scholars have claimed to be the product of cultural alienation, was mostly an adaptation of the Arabic and Iranian art. It addressed people who had Madrasah (theological school) training and religious knowledge. It however was not appreciated, or read by the masses, and so remained merely as court literature. Its language was a mixture of Turkish, Arabic and Persian, which was later called the Ottoman Language. Although this genre produced mostly poems, it also produced history books, letters and travel notes.

Dehhani, Kadi Burhaneddin, Nesimi and Ahmedi were the first masters of Divan poetry in the fourteenth century. Turkish divan poets beginning in the fifteenth century adopted all the characteristics of Persian poetry. In non-religious subjects, the most famous poets of divan literature were Seyhi, Ahmet Pasha and Necati. Suleyman Celebi wrote the most renowned religious poem of that period, Mevlut, which differs from the other examples of its kind in its simple, enthusiastic and sincere language. It is still recited in some religious gatherings today.

In the sixteenth century, when the Ottoman State reached the peak of its political power, art and literature experienced a golden age. In fact, Istanbul became a center, which constituted a focus of attention for Western and Eastern cultures and attracted many artists who lived in Anatolia, the Balkans and the Middle East. This situation provided the background for nurturing great masters of literature, but it also turned Turkish into the Ottoman language, full of foreign elements and difficult to understand. Fuzuli is the most familiar name of Turkish divan poetry. Some of the other famous poets of the period were Baki who was noted for his smooth and fluent use of language, Zati, Nev'i and Bagdatli Ruhi.

The eighteenth century Divan poetry which is identified with Nedim, started a slow transformation from being an exclusively court literature into becoming a genre which uses a language less alien to the masses. In this period, folk poetry influenced the realm of Divan literature; the language was purified to some extent and local issues were used as subjects in poems. With Nedim, the daily events were transformed in shape and entered into poetry; and the ideal of "magnificence in poetry" was replaced by the idea of producing "the delicate and sensitive poem". This age, which was inaugurated by Nedim, continued in the works of Sheik Galip in the last quarter of the century.

Many Divan period authors who wrote prose adopted a relatively simple language in works written for the people, but they preferred a rhetorical style in works addressed to intellectuals. But in time, a middle point was found and a prose was developed which was quite different from spoken language but which rarely used the rhetorical style. Asikpasazade, Asik Celebi, Evliya Celebi, Naima, Kocibey and Mercimek Ahmet are the leading writers of this period. The Seyahatname (Travel Book) by Evliya Celebi, who wrote about the myriad of things and events he had witnessed during his travels of more than half a century, is an important source from the viewpoints of geography, history, anthropology and ethnography because it reflects various aspects of social life in the seventeenth century.

The nineteenth century witnessed the collapse of Divan literature, which could not cope with the escalating power of the search for renovation and change. Divan literature, which consumed itself by repeating the same subjects, the same narrating techniques and the same structures, slowly surrendered its place to Turkish literature under the influence of the Western Culture.