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Big data in European literary history

Suzan van Dijk:

Big data in European literary history : are scholars ready ?

Within a collaboration with colleagues literary historians from 25 European countries, in order to address a common research question: what place did women occupy in the historical literary field (until the early 20th century) ? In order to address this broad question we use data found in large-scale sources, in particular the early periodical press. Here we find data representing the contemporary reception of women authors, showing these women “functioning” in the literary field of their time, and potentially leading to conclusions about places to be given them in (transnational) literary historiography.

Yet, in how far are we (literary historians) ready for such approaches which become more and more possible, thanks to periodicals being more and more digitized?

Our collaboration has yielded very interesting results and the project is considered completely successful, having led to several further research proposals being granted. But the really large scale has not always been reached: obviously we are attached to going into details of unique texts and of individual works.

In this communication I will try analyzing types and numbers of data included in our database: comparing them from one country to another, trying to understand researchers’ motives and ways of involving themselves.

SvD, January 2014

  • Participants > Van Dijk > Montreal 2013

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