Before NEWW (New approaches to European Women's Writing): Prolegomena to the Launching of an International Project

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Before NEWW (New approaches to European Women's Writing): Prolegomena to the Launching of an International Project
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    University of Tulsa  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature. University of ulsa Before NEWW "(New Approaches to European Women's Writing)": Prolegomena to the Launchingof an International Project Author(s): Suzan van Dijk, Anke Gilleir and Alicia C. Montoya Source: Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring, 2008), pp. 151-157Published by: University of TulsaStable URL: 13-07-2015 08:26 UTC Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  info/about/policies/terms.jspJSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact This content downloaded from on Mon, 13 Jul 2015 08:26:02 UTCAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  INNOVATIONS Before EWW (New approaches o uropean Women's Writing): rolegomena o the aunching f an International roject Suzan van Dijk, Universiteit trecht Anke Gilleir, atholieke niversiteit euven Alicia C. Montoya, Rijksuniversiteit roningen The project ew approaches o uropean omen's Writing NEWW) is an international ollaborative etwork hat as begun to take hape ver the past decade. It seeks to produce new historiography bout European women's writing, iewed from n explicitly ransnational nd relational perspective. nlike previous istories f women's writing, t takes s its starting oint not the roduction ide of women's iterary orks, ut their reception-especially y readers ontemporary o the publication. his approach eans that e do not restrict urselves o those riters ho have survived anon formation r even to those ho have (re)emerged ecently thanks o feminism. e take into account all female ontributions o the iterary ield, ith connections o male contributions hen relevant, but with a particular ocus n the reception f women's writings y other women. A second nnovation s that women's writing s viewed from n explicitly ransnational erspective, oregrounding he many networks that xisted etween ndividual omen writers n different ountries nd language reas before he dvent f organized eminism n the ate nine teenth entury. inally, he roject s rganized round n ever-expanding database (, hich at present olds some 18,000 entries ontaining eferences o the reception f women's iterary works efore 900. Early onsiderations The present EWW project rew ut of n increasing wareness mong a group f researchers ased in the Netherlands hat we lacked he tools necessary o carry ut adequate research nto he history f women's writ ing. his was because, s we discovered, e were not sure ow to evaluate and contextualize he few urviving, anonized women authors n the literary ield f their ay. The start as Suzan van Dijk's work on French women's iterature nd 151 This content downloaded from on Mon, 13 Jul 2015 08:26:02 UTCAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  its ontemporary eputation, specially ighteenth-century ovelists uch as Marie-Jeanne iccoboni and Jeanne arie Leprince de Beaumont, s well as George Sand in the nineteenth entury. and's work in particular had been studied, e-edited, nd discussed n international onferences since the ighties, ut with little ttention aid to its mpact uring he nineteenth entury. lthough ositive eactions o and's works y Henry James nd Dostoyevsky ad not been completely orgotten, hey emained isolated tatements. heir isolation nd lack f context xplained n part the ase with which Sand had been dismissed ntil recent ears. At a 1992 conference n Debrecen, Hungary, or he first ime he ub ject of Sand's international ontemporary eception as on the program. From then n a variable group f researchers as been working n the subject. nce we started o get an impression f the number f transla tions n European languages, thers-in particular he organizers f the 2004 bicentennial Annee George Sand -also became convinced f the important nternational tatus f this uthor, ho enjoyed wide recogni tion mong her contemporaries. or the Netherlands, here Suzan was working, and's reception aised uestions that could not be answered while remaining ithin a bilateral, ranco-Dutch ontext. he reception seemed relatively eager, specially n the domain of translations three or four f them ere known t the time), iven the arge umber f and's publications more han ne hundred itles). his impression as in need of confirmation nd explanation; t called for more thorough esearch n Dutch sources, especially those that allowed for a comparison of the Dutch reception f Sand with her reception lsewhere. It turned ut that omparison as, as it were, inherent o our mate rial. n Dutch reception races comments nd articles n the eriodical press) and is onstantly ompared o other uthors, articularly o other women: to George Eliot of course, ut also-not always ith the best intentions-to those German women writers ho were said to smoke cigars nd to have been influenced herein y and, such s Louise Aston, and those-like the German-born ountess Hahn-Hahn-whose morals were considered o be as loose as Sand's own. But critics lso established oppositions etween and and more feminine uthors ho were consid ered etter xamples or he utch female eading ublic: redrika remer from weden, Madame de Gasparin from witzerland, nd Henriette Hanke from ermany. y making these omparisons, ritics ere in fact sketching hole networks f resemblances nd oppositions, hich Suzan assumed might provide context for nterpreting he reception f indi vidual authors, nd might explain publishers' ecisions to translate-or not-Sand's novels. Finally, ot only did critics nclude and in compari sons to other women authors, ut Suzan was also finding ounting vi dence that hese omen in some ases really ere under and's influence, 152 This content downloaded from on Mon, 13 Jul 2015 08:26:02 UTCAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  or may have come to writing ecause f reading and. It was precisely ere, n this iscovery hat throughout urope during the nineteenth entury omen authors ere compared o Sand, that he problem tarted. and herself an be said to be familiar o us now. But for many of those ho were compared o her, nd whose works we would want to read n order o interpret he omparisons, e are much less ware f who they ere and what they rote. and's own correspondence ndeed provides s with the ames f ther omen who wrote nd were published or wanted to be published nd therefore ddressed etters o Sand asking for er help. These women confirming-in heir wn way-Sand's celeb rity re also part of the iterary andscape f the time, nd Suzan wanted to be able to study heir osition nd role. n short, t seemed ecessary to create site where these cattered ieces of information ould be put together, hile offering olleagues orking n other women authors he possibility o consult nd complement he data. The Idea f reating Database nd the irst ollaborative fforts At this oint, uzan realized teps ad to be taken o create practical basis for transnational pproach o women's iterature uring his eriod (1700 to 1900 in the first oncept; ater, he ates were extended o cover all texts ublished nd commented n before 900). While pursuing research roject t the University f Amsterdam 1997-2004), funded by the Netherlands rganization for cientific esearch (NWO), she decided to develop first ersion f a database tructure hat ould allow her, s well as others, o stock nformation bout the reception f women's works. hus, the lectronic omponent f the roject tarted ith a simple Microsoft ccess database, hich Suzan sent from ime o time o Petra Broomans, t the epartment f candinavian iterature t the niversity of Groningen, ll the time oping that o data would be lost uring he electronic ravels. uring this eriod uzan already ealized he need for future xpansion, nd so much time ent into iscussing ith IT develop ers the technical spects f a more ambitious tructure. At this arliest tage, s part of her work on the project, uzan also supervised wo octoral tudents' issertation rojects hat ontributed o the database: otte Jensen, ho worked n Dutch female ournalists n the ighteenth nd nineteenth enturies, rovided mportant ackground information, hile Alicia Montoya, who worked n the rench ramatist Marie-Anne Barbier, ocumented he presence f works by French nd English women authors n a corpus f eighteenth-century rivate ibrary auction atalogues. t was from his ime hat licia's involvement n the project-which was not yet known as such-started, nd was to grow progressively rom here. 153 This content downloaded from on Mon, 13 Jul 2015 08:26:02 UTCAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  During this eriod, oo, uzan co-organized he first f several onfer ences dealing directly ith the question f how to write the history f women's writing rom transnational erspective. eld in 1998 at the headquarters f the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW), the conference riting he istory f Women's Writing: oward n International Approach rought ogether cholars rom he nited States nd Europe. n the oncluding tatements, oep eerssen, rofessor f uropean iterature at the University f Amsterdam, rgued hat iterary istory hould be seen not so much as part f the iscipline f literary tudies, ut as part f cultural istory. e concurred hat t would be refreshing .. to look t literary istory, ncluding omen's iterary istory, s a history f readers; for veryone grees hat omen have been the prime eaders n European literary istory. ' he publication f the onference roceedings n 2001 was followed, n 2004, by the first olume clearly dentified ith what would later be called the NEWW project: I Have Heard about You : Foreign omen's Writing rossing he utch Border: rom appho to elma Lagerlof, dited by Suzan together ith Petra Broomans, Janet an der Meulen (medieval iterature, ree University f Amsterdam) nd Pim van Oostrum Dutch iterature, ndependent cholar).2 ublication as still n the lassic ook form, artly n rder ot to scare way olleagues, ome f whom were already ore or less hocked y the arge cope f the project and the lectronic pproach hat e were in the rocess f adopting. Digitizing nd Network uilding But the digitizing ent on. We were conscious f the fact that the questions aised n the I Have Heard about ou volume necessitated he unearthing f countless ieces of information hat ad been lost, uch s the references o women's novels contained n the eighteenth-century Dutch library atalogues tudied y Alicia.3 In 2000 and 2001 Suzan was supported y two tudent ssistants, mmanuelle adar and Martine Brunot, ho did much of the work of systematically ecording nd enter ing hose ieces f data into he atabase tructure. ith the xpansion f the roject's ontent, t lso became necessary o put the database nline. In April 2001, this milestone was reached. nd from hat moment, the university ibrary f the University f Utrecht began to host the project. Several T specialists ere enthusiastic bout digitizing roject nitiated by cholars ather han T specialists ince this eemed o them guarantee that he field ould benefit rom t irectly. n particular, T specialists en Brandenburg nd Nicolien Gouwenberg elped to develop an adequate format nd interface, nd they ontributed qually to the creation f an online publishing ite that ppeared seful or ommunicating reliminary results o the utside orld. 154 This content downloaded from on Mon, 13 Jul 2015 08:26:02 UTCAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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