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Final conference of COST Action IS0901

Women Writers In History


This closing conference will be held 19-21 June 2013 at Huygens ING, The Hague (Grant Holder of the Action), in the Tesselschade room.

Aim of the conference in The Hague will be to show what has been achieved over these four years, on the level of:

  • New knowledge about the role of women authors in Europe, during the centuries until the early 20th ;
  • Conception and development of new tools allowing for the analysis of new data found by using sources not yet often consulted (new sources);
  • New collaborations created thanks to the COST-WWIH connections developed during this period (leading to new networks).

This final conference will present the history (see also here) as well as the future of the collaborative network which has been constituting itself as a COST Action, and very successfully functioning as such. Thanks to COST we have been able to create possibilities for future and more advanced research in the field of women’s authorship from the Middle Ages over the centuries until the early 20th century.

Overview of the program content

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Dinner for those colleagues arriving in the afternoon at 20.00,
in: Grieks restaurant Rhodos
Laan van Meerdervoort 40-B
Tel. 070 – 365 70 50
Please inform the organisers.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013



  • Lex Heerma van Voss (director Huygens ING):
  • Revealing Dutch and European women authors

  • Suzan van Dijk (Chair COST-WWIH):
  • Welcome

9.30-11.15 Session 1:
“Dominating” languages and their “female” influence in Europe
We will start by focusing on the literatures/languages that are more frequently studied, and often referred to as representing “European” literature. Yet, we will also situate them in their transnational, and female, context: French, English and German women authors, as groups, have been much more internationally successful than we are often aware of, and these three languages – vehicles for international communication – have often played particular roles for women.




  • Discussion


11.45-13.00. Session 2:
Circulation of women and their writings
We then will give an impression of the ways in which women’s writings circulated in earlier periods – not always in printed form – and also with the help of the authors “circulating” themselves through different European countries.



  • Discussion

Lunch in Belle van Zuylen hall
On show: manuscript text and letter by Belle van Zuylen/Isabelle de Charrière, which had been apparently lost, but were recently re-discovered by Hein Jongbloed (National Archives)

14.00-16.00.Session 3:
Theory and practice
We also want to show how we have been and are still trying to find our way while coming from more traditional approaches, and seeing the importance of transforming theory into the practice of appropriate and effective digital tools. Testing these tools, preferably with students, and comparing our own use to those in similar projects, has been an essential part of our experience.




  • Discussion


      • (for MC core group members)
      • Core group meeting (agenda to follow) in Deken room

17.15–18.30. Presenting two temporary exhibitions

  • Aad Meinderts (director Museum of Dutch Literary History):
  • Welcome

  • Tessa du Mée, actress:
  • Presenting texts by Dutch women authors, entering the Museum on the occasion of the COST-WWIH conference


    • Museum of Dutch Literary History:
    • Additional Dutch women writers: new portraits for the Gallery

    • Royal Library:
    • Women's books (19th- and early 20th-century) from the KB collection

Drinks and buffet

Thursday, 20 June 2013


9.30-11.00. Session 4:
Nations, cultures, women authors
We then will consider the geographical scope of the networks we are studying: for the first time in our field, effort has now been made to really include any European country. This is quite a challenge; first, because the amount of preparatory work carried out in each country often greatly varies; second, because during the periods researched, the understanding from one country to another, even between women and in spite of potential gender solidarity, was in some cases complex or even completely absent. Image building played an important role here, which can in particular be shown in the « connections » between women writers from western and eastern parts of Europe. Even so, in certain European centers, female authors from different parts of the continent met and exchanged directly: the role of centers like these will be discussed.



  • Discussion


11.30-13.00. Session 5:
Big corpora and networks (including male and female authors)
Using networks can provide a solution to several of the problems and obstacles we encounter in our field. Many of those obstacles are similar in different countries, and working together provides important practical help. But many of “our” authors were also “networking” themselves. They were not the isolated cases they may seem: they knew and read each other, or knew and read about each other (without necessarily agreeing with each other…). Present electronic tools can do justice to these connections, and indeed make visible a European female literary field. Between the tools themselves connections can again be made in a near future, so that women’s connections to male authors can also be visualised, and women’s place in the literary field taken as a whole.


  • The possibility of comparing (for the 19th century) the whole national novelistic production as opposed to translations from abroad; “male” novels as opposed to “female”.


  • New developments thanks to reflection during the COST-WWIH Action.
  • Discussion

Lunch in Belle van Zuylen hall
On show: manuscript text and letter by Belle van Zuylen/Isabelle de Charrière, which had been apparently lost, but were recently re-discovered by Hein Jongbloed (National Archives)

14.30-17.00. Session 6:
Evaluating the COST-WWIH Action
During this meeting we will also reflect on the importance of our Action for participants, as well as for colleagues who are not members. What about our aims formulated at the beginning of the collaboration? What has been realized? What will be done in the research projects which have been generated?


  • Discussion


Visit of a famous "Ladies' Reading Museum" founded at the end of the 19th century: Damesleesmuseum, The Hague (inscription needed!). A tour will be given and discussion is possible with present members and with Action member Lizet Duyvendak, author of a dissertation about this institution, which has played an important role for the reception of late 19th- and early 20th-century Dutch and foreign women's writing.

Conference dinner

Friday, 21 June 2013


9.30-11.00. Session 7:
Using large-scale approaches in view of understanding women’s merits as authors and their present place in literary history
For women authors, the large scale approach was, in a way, a well-known feature: for many centuries, they have been inventoried and assembled in those bio-bibliographical compilations which seem to anticipate databases. Present IT tools, however, not only allow particular aspects of their texts to be recognised and tagged, but also allow us to go beyond the anecdotal perspective, which is so often applied to women who participated in the public field, and to compare them on a larger scale: between women’s writings considered on various levels (content as well as form), and also between “male” and “female” texts.



  • Researching the “femininity” of women’s texts: by using stylometrics and comparison of parallel corpuses
  • Discussion


Session 8:
11.30-13.00. Becoming Digital Humanists....
Our collective research has been carried out largely with the help of the research tool which was created in one of the earlier phases of the NEWW network: the WomenWriters database. We have used it intensely over the last four years: its use-value and the way in which it relates to underlying theory have been discussed. In “Training Schools”, colleagues and young researchers have been trained to enter and analyse their data in this tool. The process of familiarisation has been monitored and examined, and some members, supported by IT centers in their own institutions (which were also part of the earlier Interedition COST Action), have proceeded to test the tool in different ways, considering further possibilities for our research, and the way in which it can be used by students.



  • Looking to the COST-WWIH Action from the outside
  • Discussion

Lunch in Belle van Zuylen hall
On show: manuscript text and letter by Belle van Zuylen/Isabelle de Charrière, which had been apparently lost, but were recently re-discovered by Hein Jongbloed (National Archives)

14.00-16.00. Session 9:
Specific messages? sent and received
Reception documents often suggest that female readers might have had specific interest for women authors and their “feminine” or potentially “feminist” messages. There is, therefore, a need for large-scale analysis of this communication: what kind of plots and characters did these women propose to their readers? Did these (female?) readers react to supposedly specific messages? To which male readers and (importantly) male critics would have been reluctant? And finally: what about present male and/or female readers? Are 21st-century women more easily touched by these works because of gender solidarity ?




Closing discussion, taking into account our new projects, new forms of collaboration, new audiences...



  • Final: Belle van Zuylen/Isabelle de Charrière inspiring Dutch and American musicians...:
    • Crissman Taylor (mezzo-soprano, performing musician and educator HKU), with the collaboration of Maaike Peters (cello) and Robert Hoving (baritone):
    • "Belle and Boswell. An unconventional correspondence".
      A Literary-Musical performance based on the original letters of Belle van Zuylen and James Boswell.

For information, contact Suzan van Dijk

Members of the organizing committee:

  • Suzan van Dijk, Ton van Kalmthout (Huygens ING)
  • Francesca Scott (Amsterdam University College)
  • Lizet Duyvendak (Open University)
  • Arno Kuipers (Royal Library)
  • Janouk de Groot, assistant
  • Core Group members of the Action

SvD, 16 June 2013

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