“The mother, the wife” and The Riddle

Corina Koolen’s PhD defense already received much attention in Dutch newspapers, but when the Dutch organization CPNB (Collectieve Propaganda voor het Nederlandse Boek; Collective Propaganda for the Dutch Book) decided its new theme for the 2019 book week, new interest sprang up. CPNB chose as a theme “De moeder, de vrouw” (“The mother, the wife” or “The mother, the woman”), after a poem by Martinus Nijhoff. This might not have caused much of a stir, had they not asked two male authors to write the accompanying Book Week novella and essay. This resulted in a protest by both female and male authors. On June 18th Koolen was interviewed for Nieuwsuura Dutch human interest programme, and asked to explain the problematic nature of this CPNB action. Radio programme Focus also payed attention to the discussion. Finally, Dutch newspaper Trouw published an interview, asking Koolen to discuss five possible solutions to the problem of female authors still not receiving equal attention in the Netherlands.

PhD defense ‘Reading beyond the female’

The second PhD project in The Riddle of Literary Quality is about to be finished. On Friday the 18th of May, 11:00 sharp, Corina Koolen will publicly defend her PhD thesis Reading beyond the female. The relationship between perception of author gender and literary quality in the Aula of the University of Amsterdam, Singel 411, Amsterdam.

After the Riddle project gathered the results of the National Reader Survey, the issue with author gender became obvious. Readers did not consider works by female authors to be of high literary quality. In her thesis, Koolen researches why this is the case. First, she examines the position of female authors in the Netherlands: in which genres do they publish? Why are their novels judged to be of lesser literary quality by the Dutch public? Second, she looks at the content of the novels: is gender really as important a factor in text style, topics, etc.? And is the topic of ‘attention to physical appearance’ typically a topic for female authors or not? With her analyses she debunks a number of the myths about literary quality that still exist in the current Dutch literary field: that female authors are judged equally; that they have equal chances; and that if they do not, that it is solely to blame on the literary quality of their work.

The PhD was funded by the digital humanities special research area of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam.

Summaries of the thesis are available in Dutch and English.

Defense details
Title: Reading beyond the female. The relationship between perception of author gender and literary quality
Date/time: Friday May 18th, 2018, 11:00 sharp (until about 12:15)
Location: Aula of the University of Amsterdam, Singel 411, Amsterdam
A reception will be held at the same location after the defense.

More information
For more information, you can contact Thijs van der Veen (Huygens ING).