Meeting with Think Tank

March 16th The Riddle will meet their Think Tank. This day project leader Karina van Dalen-Oskam and the three PhD candidates Andreas van Cranenburgh, Corina Koolen and Kim Jautze will present their latest results and the progress they made over the last four years. We are looking forward to meeting the Think Tank members and are sure we will benefit from their remarks in order to come as close as we can to solve the riddle.

Thriller elements in literary novels. Literary ingredients in thrillers.

Saturday the 7th of November, de Vereniging van Schrijvers en Vertalers and het Genootschap van Nederlandstalige Misdaadauteurs organized an event where literary authors, crime authors and translators met to discuss various kinds of topics. In the afternoon session there was an interview with thriller writer Charles den Tex and literary author Nausicaa Marbe. The topic of the interview was about thriller elements in literary novels and literary ingredients in thrillers. In other words: what happens when the genres make use of each others ingredients?
Continue reading

Prehistory of The Riddle

In 2014, the editors of the Utrecht journal for literary studies Vooys:asked project leader Karina van Dalen-Oskam for a short article about the background of the project The Riddle of Literary Quality.. The editors of Vooys gave permission to post an English translation of this article on the Riddle blog. The original publication is titled ‘The Riddle of Literary Quality. Op zoek naar conventies van literariteit’ and was published in: Vooys: tijdschrift voor letteren 32 (2014), 3, p. 25-33.

The Riddle of Literary Quality: The search for conventions of literariness

Continue reading

The Riddle goes Lausanne

A well-know fact amongst digital humanists is that the Digital Humanities Conference of 2014 will be organized in Lausanne, Switzerland. However, most of them will be less familiar with the (fictional) conference that took place in Lausanne 67 years ago:

“Over een eeuw, over driehonderd jaar, als mijn moeder, mijn zuster en ik niet meer leven, zal iedereen die de moeite neemt in het gedenkboek Mallinckrodt kunnen opzoeken wie er deelgenomen hebben aan het congres in Lausanne, juli 1947. Von Karbinsky uit Krakow, Stahl uit Göttingen, Pelletier uit Lyon. Maar als hun blik over het hoofd van mijn vader glijdt, weten zij niets. Mijn moeder, Eva en ik zijn de enige bezitters van het gedenkboek die hem kennen. Alfred de eerste. Alfred de eerste, mompel ik dan, en zet het boek op zijn plank terug.”

A century from now, or two or three, when my mother, my sister and I are long dead, anyone who cares to will be able to find out who attended the conference in Lausanne by consulting the MALLINCKRODT MEMORIAL VOLUME. Von Karbinski from Cracow, Stahl from Göttingen, Pelletier (Lyon), James (Oxford)… But when their gaze stops at my father’s face they won’t know who he is.

– Nooit meer slapen, 1966, Willem Frederik Hermans
(cited from the 32th edition included in Volledige werken, 2010
& translation Beyond Sleep by Ina Rilke, 2006).

Continue reading

Midterm meeting

In the last week of January 2014 the Riddle team held a two-day meeting with the members of their Think Tank. During these two days the project members presented the first accomplishments within the overarching project, as well the results achieved within the individual PhD projects, in order to discuss the progress and to be advised on the proposed next steps.

Continue reading

First results of reader survey online

Recently, the first results of the large reading survey that is part of the project The Riddle of Literary Quality were published on the website of Het Nationale Lezersonderzoek. The survey could be filled in from March 4 until September 27 2013. We are very happy that in total 13,782 readers did this.Some of the first results (in Dutch) can be found on the survey site. More will follow. And ofcourse, we are now starting work on the analysis of as many of the 400 novels in the list as is possible, to find out whether we can find any correlations between features of the texts, readers’ opinions, and also readers’ predominant reading role. Results in this area will take some more time, but we are sure that they will yield interesting new insights into what a book needs to be evaluated as literary or not, good or bad, by different kinds of readers.

Siegenbeek Lecture at Leiden University

Whodunit? The appreciation of the “literary crime novel”

Since the beginning of the new millennium a new prose genre has gained much popularity in the Netherlands: the literaire thriller (‘literary crime novel’). The question that puzzles many is whether this is really a new genre that in terms of literariness outranks other crime novels, or that we should speak of a clever marketing strategy. Furthermore, some professional readers doubt the literary quality of the novels. Are we dealing with women’s suspense, “chick lit for well-educated blondies”, or with actual Literature? In other words, to what extent do these particular crime novels deserve the adjective ‘literary’? On November the 19th I shall elaborate on this question by shedding light on the appreciation and value of the literaire thriller during the annual Siegenbeeklezing (‘Siegenbeek Lecture’) at the University of Leiden. This lecture will be in Dutch.

For the website of the Siegenbeek Alumni Association, click here

When: Tuesday, November 19th 2013
Where: Snouck Hurgronjehuis, Rapenburg 61, Leiden
The doors open at 19:30 and the lecture starts at 20:00
Admission: free of charge for members of the Siegenbeek Alumni Association and students, € 5,- for other interested

The Riddle goes to Atlanta

The 2013 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (NAACL2013) and the 2013 Workshop for Computational Linguistics for Literature (CLFL2013)

Corina Koolen, Kim Jautze and Andreas van Cranenburgh

For a brief while, Atlanta (Georgia) was flooded with computational linguists from over the world—to the extent that border security sighed of boredom when we announced our intention in entering the USA. Machine translation, summarization, sentiment analysis, etc.—many specialisms were represented. But we came with prose fiction in mind. Continue reading

Vacancy internship

Description of internship:

Huygens ING has a vacancy for an internship in the research project ‘The Riddle of Literary Quality’. This project explores the assumption whether formal characteristics in contemporary Dutch novels may be of importance in calling a novel literary or non-literary, and good or bad. In order to discriminate between the fictional texts that have been included in the corpus, the opinion of readers is being asked in an online survey, Het Nationale Lezersonderzoek ( An associated research project at Huygens ING is into online reception of literature. This project investigates among other things what online reception can teach us about literary appreciation.

The intern will perform reception analysis of a small selection of the ‘Riddle’-corpus, which will complement the online survey. To this end, the intern will perform research on online forums, combined with book club interviews. He/she will be working with the team members, especially with two PhD Candidates who are engaged in the survey and the activities on social media concerning the PR. The intern may therefore be involved in these activities as well.


– Master student in Literary Studies or a closely related field
– Dutch native proficiency
– Affinity with empirical research

The duration of the internship will be about 3-5 months, on a part-time basis, depending on the requirements of your master programme.

Those who are interested can send an e-mail to