Working on “Women Writers In History” - New trends in eHumanities

Suzan van Dijk, Huygens ING


May 10, 2012


Working on “Women Writers In History”.
Since several years an international network is being created and extended, in view of preparing large-scale research on women’s presence in the European literary field before the beginning of the 20th century. Having noticed, thanks to previous research in the periodical press, to inventories provided by book history, and last but not least to research being done for some specific countries (England in particular), that women – authors, readers and intermediaries – did play a quite larger role than suggested by literary historiography, we had started accumulating, in a database entitled  WomenWriters,  empirical evidence for the contemporary reception of their works. We take these data, in principle, from large-scale sources which together provide a basis for research which can either be large-scale (comparing for instance currents of “female” influence from one country to others), or concern for instance the reception of one individual author in several countries (which can then be seen within its international context). The database now contains 4000 records for authors, and 20.000 for the reception of their writings.

At present we are in the process of proceeding from one version of the database WomenWriters (the third version actually, since 2001) to the next one: a Virtual Research Environment for which we will seek funding. For this new version we plan a number of important new features:

1.    Interconnectivity with other online projects in women’s literary history (in order to avoid duplication of work);

2.    The possibility of making the texts comparable by brief notations concerning (a) “scenario’s” presented (by the use of specific narrative topoi) by the female authors and (b) the ways in which these female “scenario’s” are appreciated, commented upon or rewritten;

3.    A new data model corresponding to a different perspective on literary communication.

I would be happy, during this meeting on 10th of May 2012, to discuss this passage from one version to another of our research tool – in particular to discuss the work previously to be carried out by others than the developers . Indeed, the development will be taken care of by Huygens Ing, but we are aware that a lot of other work will need to be done not only for checking and completing data, but also for standardizing certain parts of the information, in order to make them appropriate for faceted search and visualisation.

Most probably we will have the possibility of employing 5 or 6 assistants for these tasks, and the discussion would have as its principal, and very practical, objective to prepare a work program for their work to be done during one or two weeks this summer.

I am a specialist in French and comparative literature (18th-19th centuries), especially women’s writing. As a senior researcher at Huygens ING The Hague, I am currently chairing a European COST Action entitled “Women Writers In History“ (2009-2013), which is the present form of the NEWW network (New approaches to European Women’s Writing), created thanks to NWO funding (2007-2010). In COST-WWIH, 120 members from 26 countries are collaborating. See alsoNEWW website.

(Presentation slides)