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Amelia Sanz

COST Action Women Writers in History:
A Transnational Approach to Women’s Writings and Readings


Traditionally, the Academy has conceived literatures in terms of nations, on the basis of a (male) canon and in the frame of printed books. But in our 21st century, we are facing three challenges:

  • we are experiencing an interesting overlap between the national and the global imaginaries,
  • we are accommodating other voices with the literary domain (more concretely, women’s voices),
  • we are working with electronic textualities.

In this contribution, I will try to explain how our COST Action Women Writers in History – Toward a New Understanding of European Literary Culture, tries to take up these challenges thinking women’s literatures in Europe before 1900

  • beyond the nation,
  • beyond the canon and
  • beyond the printed culture.

First, we will present the theoretical and methodological foundations of our bet on circulation of women’s reading and writing from our point of view, taking into account the anthropological turn we are living in, as much as the master contributions on theories of literary history by means of very concrete bibliographical references. By doing so, we will try to demonstrate the advantages of an anthropology of mobility vs an archaeology of origins.

Second, we will recommend a very multilateral comparatism (and not just a binary or central one) for Gender Studies, incorporating as many European literatures and as many data about texts published and read by women as possible. In fact, our Comparative History of Women Writers in Europe before 1900 aims to begin from the empirical data (a quantitative approach of traces on circulation of women’s reading and writing), to go on with ideological readings on the production and reception of literature in specific social and cultural contexts (a qualitative approach), and to end up with the visualization of the plurality of data and discourses. This kind of research is only possible with a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach and by means of Virtual Environments, plurilingual and plurinational, conceived on this subject.

Finally, we will vindicate the necessity of integrating the Ottoman Empire, as we do usually for the Habsbourg Empire, to understand women’s writing and reading circulation in the interval spanning from the 16th century to 20th century contemporary Turkey. It is time to assume other kinds of modernities, other cultures beyond the nation, other literary maps for women.

All the case-studies quoted as sources will be retrieved from the contributions of our COST colleagues for our next volume, Women telling Nations (presenting outcomes of the Madrid Conference November 2010).

Ask, September 2012

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