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Portraits of Authors: Introduction

By Gillian Dow, University of Southampton and Chawton House Library,
COST action "Women Writers In History: Toward a New Understanding of European Literary Culture", Working Group 4 Leader

As part of the dissemination activities of WG 4, this section of the website contains short biographies of just some of the women writers we are keen to investigate as part of the activities of our COST Action. It is designed to provide an user-friendly point of access to the project. For more information about each of the writers discussed below, and many, many more, please click the hyperlinks or visit the WomenWriters database.

The authors included here represent a diverse and eclectic grouping. On the surface, not much links the Norwegian author Dorothe Engelbretsdatter (1634–1716) with the German Ida Gräfin Hahn-Hahn (1805-1880); the French Stéphanie-Félicité de Genlis (1746-1830) has little in common with the nun Jefimija (1349 –ca.1405). We have, in this list, women who wrote in all genres, in complex historical settings in a variety of European countries, and who came from wildly diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Women writers in Europe across the centuries did not constitute a coherent community of writers, any more than their male counterparts did.

We have tried, in writing these biographies, to emphasise pan-European links, and transnationalism, and to talk specifically about the influence and reception of each writer Europe-wide, as this is the focus of NEWW. Naturally, some writers lend themselves better to this approach than others; some women had more opportunity and taste for the kind of networking activities we are keen to map. But the aim of these biographies is certainly not to set up alternative ‘canons’ of literature, or to claim that the women writers included here are more important than ones we have not (yet) included.

This section of the NEWW site should, in fact, be considered as a growing resource, rather than a completed project. In designing it, we have been inspired by the work of second-wave Anglo-American feminists, who felt that bio-bibliographical compilation was a necessary step in the recovery project. In her seminal work A literature of their own: British women novelists from Brontë to Lessing (1977), Elaine Showalter famously ended with a call to arms: ‘it is only by considering them all – Millicent Grogan as well as Virginia Woolf – that we can begin to record new choices in a new literary history, and to understand why, despite prejudice, despite guilt, despite inhibition, women began to write’. This project is our attempt to ‘consider them all’ – from all European countries, and through the centuries until 1900.

We have chosen not to include here any British and American women writers in the first stage of this project: these writers have been well-served by online scholarship – the biographies on the Chawton House Library website may provide a useful starting point for those interested in the Anglo-American tradition.

November 2010

Please click on the links below to find out more about the individual women writers.

Portraits of Authors

Spanish writer, scholar and translator
By Mónica Bolufer, Universitat de València

Spanish nun, reformer and author
By Anne J. Cruz, University of Miami

Spanish author
By Henriette Partzsch, University of St. Andrews

Spanish author
By Donatella Gagliardi, Università della Calabria

Finnish author
By Kati Launis, University of Turku

Norwegian author
By Torill Steinfeld, Universitetet i Oslo

French author
By Gillian Dow, University of Southampton and Chawton House Library

Norwegian author
By Inger Vederhus, Oslo University College

German author
By Elisa Müller-Adams, Universität Trier
and Kerstin Wiedemann, University of Nancy II

Romanian author
By Ileana Mih?il?, University of Bucharest

Serbian poet
By Biljana Doj?inovi?, University of Belgrade

Russian author
By Elena Gretchanaia

Slovenian author
By Katja Mihurko Poniz, Univerza v Novi Gorici

Dutch author
By Nina Geerdink, VU University Amsterdam

Montenegrin poetess
By Jelena Bakic

Slovenian author
By Tanja Badali?, University of Nova Gorica

Portuguese author
By Vanda Anastácio, University of Lisbon and Foundation Casas de Fronteira and Alorna

Dutch author and composer
By Lotte Jensen, Radboud University Nijmegen

Finnish-Swedish Author
By Heidi Grönstrand, University of Turku

Spanish author
By Nieves Baranda, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Madrid

Serbian poet
By Biljana Doj?inovi?, University of Belgrade

German writer, translator and intercultural mediator
By Juliana Jovi?i?, University of Novi Sad

British diarist, author, and patron of the arts
By Marianna d'Ezio, University of Rome RomaTre

British author and philosopher
By Laura Kirkley, University of Cambridge

Spanish author
By Yolanda Gamboa Tusquets, Florida Atlantic University

AsK, June 2013

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