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Women's authorship

and literatures of small countries in the 19th century

Symposium in the context of Ljubljana World Book Capital 2010
Ljubljana, Slovenia, 22-23 September 2010, Town Hall
University of Nova Gorica, Institute for Cultural Studies
in conjunction with European COST Action IS0901 “Women Writers In History

The Symposium “Women’s Authorship and Literatures of Small Countries in the 19th Century” investigated the role and place of women authors within “smaller” cultures, and their connections with their female counterparts in “larger”, dominating cultures. Slovenia is itself one of the small states of Europe, and a small linguistic area. Smallness is thus an intrinsically interesting issue for Slovenia/Ljubljana. The colloquium linked the world of books with the academic world.


22 September 2010

Welcome by

  • Dr. Katja Mihurko Poniž, University of Nova Gorica
  • Dr. Tanja Petrovi?, Director of the Institute for Cultural Studies, University of Nova Gorica
  • Dr. Primož Pristovšek, Slovenian Research Agency, COST National Coordinator
  • Dr. Uroš Grilc, Ljubljana World Book Capital

Key-note lecture:

Coffee/tea break

First session (a):
Individual women authors leaving their own countries, acting - or not - as mediators (I)


First session (b):
Individual women authors leaving their own countries, acting - or not - as mediators (II)

Second session (a):
Women writers participating - or not - in international currents (I)

Coffee/tea break

Key-note lecture

Reception offered by Mr. Zoran Jankovi?, Mayor of Ljubljana


23 September 2010

Second session (b):
Women writers participating - or not - in international currents (II)

  • Kukku Melkas (University of Turku, Finland)
    • Alternative histories - Maila Talvio's historical novels

  • Milena Mileva Blaži? (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)
    • Female Authorship and the New Sensibility in Slovenian Youth Literature in 19th Century (abstract Blaži?)

  • Alenka Jensterle Doležal (Charles University Prague, Czech Republic)
    • Autobiographical characteristics of the female hero - between stereotype and modern psychology (abstract Doležal)

Key-note lecture

Coffee/tea break

Third session:
Women reading internationally


Fourth session:
Female examples and/or heroines

Coffee/tea break

Keynote lecture:

  • Biljana Doj?inovi? (University of Belgrade, Serbia)
    • Is poetry the universal possession of (wo)mankind – the concept of small literature between world and women’s literature (abstract Doj?inovi?)

Closure: Round table discussion

The Symposium revisited the problematical concept of literary smallness (Casanova 2004) and redefined it in national, linguistic, and (sub)cultural terms, as well as extend it to include female writing. The Symposium sought to explore such questions as:

  • Did women writers of small literatures also “act in concert to challenge their domination by the centres”? (Casanova 2004, p.248)
  • In which ways did women writers experience the double marginalization caused by their subordination to the patriarchal agendas of the 19th century and, in many small cultures, linked to their national subordination?
  • How did nationalism, feminism and their intersections facilitate or hinder women’s entry into the national and European literary space?
  • By whom were women writers influenced? By great national male authors or by female iconic figures like George Sand or Germaine de Staël, or even by their female contemporaries from other (small?) literatures?
  • How have literary canonizing processes treated female writers from small countries? Were they received in the large cultures or were their writings overshadowed by the works of male authors?

The aim of this Symposium was to situate the participation of women in “smaller” countries in its international gendered context, for the very period when nationalism was also busy establishing a literary canon, into which very few women were admitted. It has been shown that during the same period there was also a female [and writing] Europe.

Written culture and literature played a particularly important role as they were often considered constitutive elements in shaping national consciousness and identity under foreign domination. Similar emphasis on literature was common to all stateless nations in the German-speaking Austrian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires. But even without being dominated, smaller countries occupied a particular position in literary geography. Denmark, despite having its own language, was part of the larger (non-dominating) entity of Scandinavia. And in the Netherlands, French was currently used by the elite. In the turmoil of the 19th century many changes were made to the European political map which influenced a new perception of the literature of the nations experiencing profound historical change. In this period Portugal and Spain, for centuries major economic, political and military powers, were reduced to “small” countries at the periphery of Europe.

Despite the differences between the respective linguistic situations, the literatures of many European countries in the 19th century can be considered “minor” as they were to a large part on the receiving side of international literary exchanges; unlike countries like France and England who are considered “exporting” countries (cf. Moretti; Cohen/Dever). During the Symposium, Casanova’s judicious remark about the literatures of smaller nations taking each other as models and as points of reference was restated and re-examined from a gendered perspective.

For information and inscription:

Programme Committee:


  • Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters. Cambridge MA/London, Harvard UP, 2004 (tr. of La République mondiale des lettres [1999] by M.B. DeBevoise).
  • Margaret Cohen, Carolyn Dever (eds.), The literary channel. The international invention of the novel. Princeton and Oxford, Princeton Un. press, 2002.
  • Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900. London/New York, Verso, 1998.

AsK, October 2012

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