Meeting of the group of Dutch HERA TTT participants

This meeting was organized as a welcome to Francesca Scott, who will participate in the project as a Postdoc, succeeding to Janneke Weijermars. Francesca will officially start September 1st, but has already taken on her activities as a voluntary collaborator. The date of this meeting had been decided quite late: not all people invited could attend.

Present:  Francesca M. Scott, Guus Robroeks (trainee), Ton van Kalmthout, Kim Heuvelmans (former trainee), Saskia Meijer (former trainee), Ronald Dekker (ICT), Martijn Maas (ICT), Janouk de Groot, Astrid Kulsdom, Suzan van Dijk

Excused: Jacqueline Bel (VU Dutch department), Janneke Weijermars, Arno Kuipers (KB), Ingrid Verkiel, Salma Chen (both LM), Milo van de Pol, Renske Siemens (both PR Huygens ING), Gertjan Filarski, Jona Andersen, Walter Ravenek (all ICT).

We started by having a look at the HERA Travelling TexTs website, realized by Milo van de Pol with the URL: Everybody is invited to visit this site, send comments, blogs and suggestions. Here the new HERA logo is beautifully displayed, which has been created by Bas Doppen (Huygens ING) and is also being used in the version currently prepared for the WomenWriters VRE.

Suzan van Dijk briefly presented two items. First the contribution to Digital Humanities 2014 (Lausanne 8-12 July) prepared in collaboration with Ronald Dekker, Gertjan Filarski, Amelia Sanz, Montserrat Prats Lopez, Henriette Partzsch, and entitled: “Digitizing Women’s Literary History. A Possibility of Collaborative Empowerment”. It is not directly about our HERA TTT concerns, but about the infrastructure in which we are working, and for which we are very much aware that connections to other projects in women’s literature and history are needed. The CLARIN COBWWWEB project has started creating the possibility to directly connect to other database projects. This presentation argues the importance of connecting between structured data (databases) on one hand and text editing projects on the other. Examples for the latter are the “Digitizing Belle de Zuylen’s correspondence” (Huygens ING project) and the online available literary critiques by Conrad Busken Huet (DBNL). In order to annotate/code relevant parts of comments in Belle de Zuylen’s letters and in Huet’s articles, we consider we need the collaboration of “common readers” participating as a “crowd” in the project (comparable to the members of the Belle de Zuylen Association participating in the digitizing project).

Second she mentioned the idea of not only preparing – within HERA TTT – an exhibition in the Museum of Dutch Literary History in Fall 2015, but also extending it and collaborating with several Municipal Archives (such as Haarlem and Utrecht) leading to not only focusing on women authors by our transnational perspective, but taking into account also the local fame some of them still enjoy. These supplementary exhibition would also be prepared together with non-specialists – some of whom are announcing themselves as being interested – and take place in Fall 2016.

Janouk de Groot spoke about the activities she and Astrid Kulsdom have been carrying out as project assistants, in connection with the ICT development. In order to have a usable tool, quite some work is to be done also on the data.

–          On the authors’ level, the data have been curated (made uniform) in particular for Dutch authors. Now Janouk is continuing on English and German authors, who are of course important in the sense that many of them were received in other European countries, while not that many colleagues are especially working on them.

–          Janouk and Astrid have been testing subsequent proposals and versions released by developers – which lead to collective discussions.

–          Messages about data entry by assistants in the other HERA TTT countries have been treated; their entries have been checked and were discussed.

–          While doing this, there was also a lot of reflection going on about how to proceed for the further curating, in particular also for the work which is still to be done by colleagues in the other countries, who need to receive clear instructions.

–          Reflection also about: what will we need to visualize, in what way, and corresponding to what kind of research questions.

Astrid Kulsdom announced her participation, end of July in a Summer School “Visual Analysis with Digital Tools” at the Göttingen Centre for Digital Humanities. This will certainly be an interesting opportunity not just for herself, but also for the HERA TTT project: she is indeed supposed to bring her own data, on which she will work and have the occasion of discussing and testing together with specialists. After discussion with Francesca Scott she decided to work, in this context, on a corpus of (digitized texts of) English nineteenth-century novels, which were translated into Dutch (and other languages). She will work on questions concerning (1) social networks (between the characters in these novels), and (2) childbirth and female health. The latter not only correspond to Francesca’s concerns, but will also allow reflection about potential characteristics of female writing – and on a second level it will lead to selection of fragments for which translations can be studied as parallel texts: are these translations in fact adaptations?

Francesca Scott has been active, over the last years, in two COST Actions: “Women Writers in History” (2009-2013) and an Action entitled “Childbirth Cultures” which will finish this year. This corresponds to her interests and expertise, and is extremely relevant for our research – in particular also for understanding decisions having been taken for translating or not-translating. She mentions as examples some novels by Amelia Opie, which were not translated (as far as known up to now) and for which the question rises if this not-being-translated would be related to one of the female character’s miscarriage being described.  Works by Emmeline Smith (showing illegitimate children) and of course Mary Wollstonecraft might have been considered as dangerous. However translation was in some cases “allowed” because moral lessons could be drawn from them, and even they could be interpreted as conduct literature.

Ronald Dekker presented some of the reflection which was at the origin of the new version of the database. The most important difference, perhaps, between the structure of the current database and the new WWEVE concerns the way in which reception documents are handled by the system. Up to now we see them as the third (and kind of final) “layer” of our data: 1: author; 2: work; 3: reception. This 3-layered structure has been generating different kinds of “problems”. The most important is of course the fact that a text which is itself a reaction/reception to an earlier text, cannot be presented as a “fourth layer”, and needs to be separated from the succession to which it belongs.

Anyway, in the new version, data entry will be more “guided” by the system itself, a large part of the standardizing will not depend on the individual user any more. Concerning the new structure: not all of it will be visible to the users – such as for instance the status of receptions which is changing. However the fact that “reception documents” will be treated now as “works” has important consequences: the difference between translations of works written by men and those by women will disappear.

Guus Robroeks, finally, presented his activities as a trainee in the project, collaborating with the Museum of Dutch Literary History, which holds important quantities of archival material, for at least 140 of “our” nineteenth-century Dutch women. These papers (many of them letters) have virtually not been studied up to now. In view of the planned exhibition (Fall 2015), he is preparing an overview, getting an impression of what will be interesting to show to the Museum’s public, and might also be used for the second round of “local” exhibitions. On this occasion he presented and commented briefly some interesting cases (either because of large numbers of material, handwriting difficult to read, or interesting conflicts he had the occasion to trace): Elise van Calcar, Maria Carolina Frank, Nellie van Kol and Marie Metz-Koning.

This time, no drinks, everybody being too busy for different reasons. Next time, perhaps.

The next meeting was fixed for September 19th, 10.00 at Huygens ING.