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NEWW Women Writers: a network and a tool

This tool aims to facilitate research about women’s authorship in Europe from the Middle ages until the early 20th century. It was created and is used within the NEWW network: New approaches to European Women’s Writing. The objective of this network is: to carry out research about female authorship in history, the international reception of women’s writing and the connections between women authors. It is the ultimate goal of the NEWW VRE to contribute to the inclusion of women in European literary historiography in order to do justice to the roles they played in their own time: to understand that they actually had “something to say” – which was recognized by contemporary readers (see also here about the exhibition organized by the Dutch HERA TTT team).

This new version of the tool, the NEWW VRE, was developed by the IT department of the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands, under the direction of Bas Doppen.

  1. Research context: HERA Travelling TexTs
  2. The NEWW VRE : tool and content
  3. Members of the NEWW network
  4. Projects connected to / collaborating with the NEWW network
  5. Publications based upon the NEWW VRE (and its predecessors)

1. Research context: HERA Travelling TexTs

The present version of the VRE was (and is being) developed and used within the European HERA project Travelling TexTs 1790-1914. This collaborative research project studies the role of women’s writing in the transnational literary field during the long 19th century. It explores in terms of gender cultural encounters through reading and writing that contributed to shaping modern cultural imaginaries in Europe. The systematic scrutiny of reception data from large-scale sources (library and booksellers’ catalogues, the periodical press) forms the basis for the study of women’s participation in this process. More….

This research project had been prepared by a series of earlier digitizing projects (NWO, SURF), projects in international networking (NWO, COST), and in IT development (CLARIN-NL). Within the COST-collaboration (Action IS0901 Women Writers in History) several of the participants succeeded also in having connected projects funded at the national level. See also www.womenwriters.nl.

The HERA TTT project concerns women’s writing and the reception of women’s writings in five countries: Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia and Spain. The international connections and networks discovered by studying the reception in these countries of course also include authors and writings from other – mainly European – countries.

Each of the members of HERA TTT is responsible for particular parts of the database content (categories of authors or of sources researched), or for a specific aspect of the research infrastructure. See the list of HERA TTT members with their respective areas of expertise in the field of women’s literary history.

2. The NEWW VRE : tool and content

This VRE contains information on the production of women authors from the Middle Ages up to the early 20th century, and on the reception of their works by contemporaries as well as early literary historians (both men and women). It comprises women who were active as authors, in the sense that they published their writings, either through publishing houses or in the periodical press. For those countries and periods in which circulation in manuscript form was considered a way of publishing, these writings are also included.

Data are entered when any proof of reception is found: in other words, when it becomes clear through comments in press, private letters, translations, adaptations etc. that a woman writer and/or her works were received and read. Though the main focus lies on European women authors, the VRE also includes information on works and reception created in European colonies, Canada and the United States, due to the mutual cultural exchanges between these regions and Europe.

The structure of the VRE connects between authors and between publications: it can show both Jane Austen (for instance) influencing Isabelle de Montolieu, and Sense and Sensibility being translated into Raison et Sensibilité.

The data in the VRE are information data (metadata in fact): short biographical data and categorization of the authors; titles and other bibliographical information, as well as categorization of the publications (both primary works and reception documents). If available, records for authors and publications refer through hyperlinks to relevant online information and digitized texts.

From 2014 (the CLARIN-NL COBWWWEB project) the data were not only those entered directly in the database itself: connections were also created with other projects in women’s literary history – as well as the possibility of creating other such connections.

This tool provides information which is not always easy to find elsewhere; in particular it is presented in a structured way and within a meaningful context. The larger part of the information is open for consultation by everybody: data about women authors, their works and the reception of these works are accessible without a password. This includes hyperlinks to online biographies, texts and testimonies of reception (for instance, in the periodical press).

Yet it is important to note: this VRE is a research tool; it is not a publication tool. It contains information that is being used within the HERA TTT research project, in projects by NEWW members and in other projects. Researchers and assistants have gathered these data using different sources, which are also clearly mentioned. Users might want to check the information – going back to these sources – if it is to be used in other research contexts.

Data belonging to ongoing research are not accessible without a password – for which reason it is recommended that researchers or students who wish to use this database, take contact and become a member of the network, in order to have the full benefit of available data.

In their publications, users are invited to respect standard rules for accreditation when quoting or borrowing from the database content, by specifying as follows:
“This information was derived from/obtained via NEWW Women Writers (resources.huygens.knaw.nl/womenwriters; cons. [date])”.

For more information on the content of the VRE, as well as instructions for use, see About this tool and Getting started.

Note: At this moment (May 2016), the last items are being added to this Research Infrastructure, in order for it to correspond to all research needs of the members of the network.

3. Members of the NEWW network

Use of the VRE for entry of new data is only for HERA TTT participants and for active members of the NEWW network.

Other researchers in the field of women’s literary history are kindly invited to join the network, and thus have the possibility of entering their research data, sharing them with colleagues, and taking responsibilities.

4. Projects connected to / collaborating with the NEWW network

As the members are convinced that forces need to be joined, the NEWW network is collaborating with a number of other projects in (women’s) literary history, and in some cases preparing connectivity between the corresponding databases. The possibility for this was prepared within the CLARIN-NL funded COBWWWEB project (Connections Between Women and Writings Within European Borders).
Colleagues interested in collaborating are invited to take contact; this applies also to individual and smaller projects such as research in view of an MA-thesis for instance.

5. Publications based upon the NEWW VRE (and its predecessors)

For a list of publications generated by the WomenWriters database, please refer to the www.womenwriters.nl website, which corresponded to earlier phases of the present project, and will be adapted in the near future. See in particular the publications page and the participants pages.