The Curtain Lifts…

Travelling Texts is now online, with a brand-new website courtesy of Huygens ING, a fresh logo and this space to share thoughts and experiences as they arise. Having said that, this very first blog will be more of a general presentation of Travelling Texts and the ground we have covered so far, to bring you up to date with a project that has now been running for almost a year – although it feels much shorter to us!

There is a simple question that unites our Czech-Dutch-English-Finnish-German-Norwegian-Scottish-Slovene-Spanish research team. What actually was the place of women writers in European literary culture during the long nineteenth century, a period of turmoil which shaped modern nation states and cultural imaginaries? In September 2013 we started to explore systematically and in depth to what extent women’s texts circulated in the five countries we are studying. Who was read where, by whom, and why? How did readers of the time react to texts written by women? What kinds of cultural encounters took place through reading and writing, and how did they transcend and reinforce or were confined by borders of all kinds – of gender, religion, nationality, language, class, political convictions, etc.?

The deeper we are digging into the evidence, the more exciting as well as complex matters become. Fortunately we are not on our own in the attempt of developing a new approach to the history of European literary culture (which may in the end probably resemble a dynamic map of networks and relationships rather than a stately, chronological account). Travelling Texts would not be possible without all the colleagues working together in the longstanding Network New Approaches to European Women’s Writing (NEWW), many of whom also participated in the COST Action Women Writers in History (2009-2013). Travelling Texts would not be possible without the recent advances in Digital Humanities and the professionalism, patience and humour of the IT Developers at Huygens ING, who are currently transforming the database WomenWriters into the Women Writers Enhanced Virtual Environment. Travelling Texts would not be possible without the generous support of our associated partners Chawton House Library (UK) and Turku City Library (Finland), as well as the amazing expertise of our advisory board members – I am for instance thinking of Adele Patrick from Glasgow Women’s Library ( and Arno Kuipers from KB/National Library of the Netherlands (, who made discussions about such vital but potentially dry topics as metadata, classification systems and catalogues (i.e., how to find evidence) a passionate and inspiring experience that sparked us all into action.

This initial impulse has carried us through the first months of the project, when, after the first project meeting, we went all back to our individual writing desks and computer monitors, connected through the net but nevertheless on our own in a labyrinth of historical sources.  Our subsequent encounter in Turku confirmed that we were on the right track. In September, we will find out in Slovenia whether we can gather first results.

Henriette Partzsch