Reception history across languages – a challenge for the digital humanities

The first conference of the new association of Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries has been held at the University of Oslo March 15–17. The purpose of the association is to strengthen research, education and communication in the field of Digital Humanities and make Nordic Digital Humanities more visible internationally. Book of abstracts here.

Jenny Bergenmar presented a paper about reception history across languages as a challenge for the digital humanities. Large-scale computational methods are often used for analysis of (literary) texts in printed in books, which leaves aside reception documents, for example reviews in the press, letters and other manuscripts not usually available in text format, and consequently an inconvenient material for computational analysis. In the project Swedish Women Writers on Export in the 19th Century we are interested in the translations, circulation and reception of texts in different language areas – objectives requiring data much less accessible. There are however some inspirational examples – Katherine Bode’s book Reading by Numbers is one. In it, she sets out to rewrite Australian literary history through metadata and sales figures showing authorship, publishing, and readership circulation during certain historical periods. Bode has the advantage of a large bibliographic database, AustLit, where data on publications both in book format and in periodicals is aggregated. The project Global Literary Networks at the University of Chicago has used metadata to map literary networks and circulation of American modernist poetry in Japan, China and Latin America. Both these projects show the potential of using metadata for investigating the transnational circulation of literature, in the latter case also across linguistic borders.

It was nice to meet some colleagues from the Women Writers’ Network, Viola Parente-Čapková and Anne Birgitte Rönning. Below some field observations on literary transfer: The publication A travers la Norvège. Scènes de la vie populaire au pays du soleil de minuit found in the window of a antiquarian book shop, and an entire shelf of “Swedish Novels” in a regular one.

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