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Dutch Women Writers.
Their role in the literary field of the late 19th century

Collaboration in the context of "Women Writers In History" (COST IS0901), carried out in and from Huygens Institute The Hague

Lizet Duyvendak, Els Naaijkens, Ton van Kalmthout, Gea Schelhaas, Suzan van Dijk, Roselinde Supheert, Ton Naaijkens, Astrid Kulsdom, and (starting January 2012) Annemarie Doornbos.

A. Objective

Inspired by choices made in Working Group 1 (1890), and conscious of the necessity of comparing information found in different sources (WG 3), preferably in an online accessible tool (WG 2), we decided to focus on Dutch literature and women’s writing at the end of the 19th century: each of us working on this period, and particularly interested by literary reception, be it from different perspectives.

Global aim is to follow and analyse (de-)canonizing processes concerning women writers, and :

  • to illustrate the need of collaborating with different (sub-)disciplines in order to understand women’s place in literature;
  • to test the online database and provide feedback for further development of the tool;
  • to compare and confront, in COST context, our outcomes with those concerning other literatures;
  • a possible publication might contribute to disseminating, in the Netherlands, what we are doing.

B. The period

The end of the 19th century starts being well documented as – a bit later than in other European countries – the period of the first feminists: Betsy Perk and Mina Kruseman, frequently ridiculed in the periodical press. At the same time Dutch book historians have shown the important number of women authors producing quite popular books – following the examples of Mary Braddon or Luise Mühlbach. They are easily considered and dissmissed as “silly lady novelists”, but it will be interesting to carry out more systematic research into the attitudes of their actual readers.

Within this project we tend to distinguish the following categories of women writers:

  • authors of the past (Dutch),
  • authors of the past (foreign),
  • contemporary authors (Dutch),
  • contemporary authors (foreign),
  • authors now canonized,
  • authors forgotten or considered "trivial".

This way of categorizing leads to questions such as:

  • did one realize that in previous centuries women had been writing and publishing?
  • was there any inspiration coming from abroad?
  • was there any institutional preference for contemporary and/or Dutch women’s authorship?
  • where there any professional contacts between authors who would be canonized and those who would not ?

Besides of that there will be specific interest for:

  • women operating between the categories as translators, literary historians or otherwise intermediaries;
  • women belonging to several categories: living abroad as well as in the Netherlands; writing in Dutch and in other languages.

C. Global planning

Working in a way parallel to the structure of the COST Action, we plan the following phases for a period of roughly four years:

  • 1. quantitative approach of the material (Dutch and foreign production + Dutch reception)
  • 2. qualitative analyses of the dialogue between (Dutch and foreign) women authors and (Dutch; male or female) readers; and of the roles of the (male and female) intermediaries
  • 3. visualising results: translating the outcomes of 2 into “graphs, maps, trees”
  • 4. preparing publication (online or paper + online; maintaining contact with the source material).

D. Global content of the project

  • 1. Starting at the receiving end: sources
  • 2. Starting at the production side: some cases
    • 2.1 A foreign author (“important” literature; canonized) and her reception in the Netherlands: Charlotte Brontë (Roselinde Supheert)
    • 2.2 A foreign author ("important" literature; non-canonized) and her reception in the Netherlands: Ouida (Astrid Kulsdom)
    • 2.3 Foreign authors (“small” literature: Italian) and their reception in the Netherlands: "corpus Berg" (Els Naaijkens)
    • 2.4 A Dutch author (extremely popular in her time, now virtually forgotten): Johanna van Woude (Gea Schelhaas)

E. Meeting dates

  • 2 February 2011, 13.30-16, The Hague, Huygens
    • Roselinde Supheert
    • Astrid Kulsdom
  • 18 March 2011, 15-17, Utrecht: Faculty of Humanities, Drift 21, room 1.08
    • Suzan van Dijk
    • Els Naaijkens
  • 20 May 2011, 14-16, Utrecht
    • Ton van Kalmthout en Kim Heuvelmans
  • 1 July 2011, 14-16, Utrecht
    • Lizet Duyvendak
  • 28 November 2011, Utrecht, Trans 10
    • Ton Naaijkens
  • 9 March 2012, Utrecht, Trans 10
    • Annemarie Doornbos (new member of the group)

SvD, March 2012

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