OSL Symposium: New Perspectives on Literature and the Brain

Date: 6 May 2022 | Time: 13:00-16:00 | Venue: Perdu, Kloveniersburgwal 86, Amsterdam / Hybrid | Open to: PhDs and RMA students; OSL members have first access | Credits: 1-2 EC |

Registration opened on February 2, 2022

During the first two decades of what many define “the century of the brain”, literary studies have increasingly engaged with new developments from neuroscience and cognitive studies. A growing number of literary scholars, for example, has fruitfully engaged with the novel perspectives offered by 4e cognition — namely the idea that our cognitive processes are embodied in the physical world, embedded in specific contexts, extended into the surrounding environment, and enactive in their relation with the environment. How exactly can these recent findings shed new light on literary texts? And how can literature, in turn, help us better understand the human brain/mind?



12:50-13:00  Walk-in

13:00-13:05  Introduction (Alberto Godioli, OSL Programme Director)

13:05-13:35  Paul B. Armstrong (Brown University), ‘The Neuroscience of Literary Time-Travel: How Literary Works Cross Historical Distance’

13:35-14:05  Karin Kukkonen (University of Oslo), ‘Cognitive Formalism: How Presence Machines are Built’

14:05-14:20  Q&A

14:20-14:35  Coffee break

14:35-15:05  Marco Caracciolo (Ghent University), ‘Literature, the Brain, and the End of the World’

15:05-15:35  Pablo Valdivia (University of Groningen / OSL Academic Director), ‘Cultural Physics of Defamiliarization, Learning and Reading’

15:35-16:00  Q&A and wrap-up


Abstracts, Readings and Bios


Assignments: In order to obtain 1EC, participants will have to submit a short report (approx. 1000 words) about one of the presentations. The report should contain at least three references to relevant readings (including those suggested by the selected presenter); it should summarize the key points made in the chosen presentation, and reflect on possible (related) ideas for future research. Participants are also welcome to discuss how the presentation relates to their own lines of research. It is also possible to obtain an extra EC by submitting an additional report on a second presentation, following the same format. All reports should be submitted to osl@rug.nl by 6 June 2022, end of day.

OSL Skills Course: Computational Literary Studies

Hybrid (Amsterdam) and online | 11 April, 25 April, 9 May, 16 May, 23 May 2022, and 30 May 2022, 12:00-15:00

Organizer: Prof. Dr. Karina van Dalen-Oskam (University of Amsterdam)
Venue: PC Hoofthuis 5.02
Open to: PhDs and RMA students; OSL members have first access.
Credits: 3-6ECs. NB: Credits can only be awarded to humanities ReMA and PhD students from Dutch universities.


THE COURSE IS FULLY BOOKED, please send an e-mail with your name, university and research school to osl@rug.nl. We will put you on our waiting list.

PLEASE NOTE: When registering, please indicate (at remarks) whether you would like to attend the event onsite or online.

Scholars working in computational literary studies make use of computer software that helps them to analyze digital textual data. Software can support the exploration of a much larger amount of data in systematic ways than was possible before. In this course, students will get introduced to the most important current approaches in computational literary studies, ranging from the analysis of style and methods for the verification and attribution of authorship to various forms of ‘distant reading’ and discourse analysis.

The first part of the course explores the new horizons and possibilities as well as the limitations of computational approaches in literary studies. Several computational tools will be demonstrated such as concordance software that can be used for discourse analytical approaches and specialized R-scripts for authorship attribution and stylistic analysis. The questions to be addressed in the first four sessions of the seminar include: How can different authors be distinguished from each other using computational tools? In which ways do their writing styles exactly differ? What are the options for computer-assisted discourse analysis? What kinds of reasoning and logic play a role when computational tools are applied and what are their epistemological implications? How can we evaluate the results of the new methods and techniques? Each class, a new tool will be introduced and the students will learn the basics of their use hands-on.

The second part of the course is optional and more practical. In two workshop-like hands-on meetings students will conduct small research projects of their own. In this way, they will learn to use the computational tools themselves and gain practical experience with their possibilities and limitations. The research projects can be devoted to the cases presented in the first part of the course but also be proposed by the students themselves.

Course objectives:

  • Students learn to employ empirical and computational methods in literary studies, including the selection of tools and the reflection on their possibilities and
  • Students get an overview of international discussions in the fields of computational literary studies and digital humanities and learn to relate their research to these
  • Students learn to reflect on the relation of research questions and digital methods in literary studies.

More details on the programme will follow soon.

OSL Seminar: Contemporary Debates in Life Writing

Amsterdam, PC Hoofthuis – room 5.60, ONSITE ONLY | Dates: 5 April, 12 April, 19 April, 3 May & 10 May 2022 | Time: 9.30-12.30 

Organizers: Dr. Marleen Rensen (UvA) and Dr. Babs Boter (VU)
Open to: PhDs and RMA students; OSL members have first access.
Credits: 5ECs. NB: Credits can only be awarded to humanities ReMA and PhD students from Dutch universities.



This course focuses on contemporary debates in life writing as a newly emerging field across disciplines. Life writing is an umbrella term for a wide range of writings about one’s own or someone else’s life, such as biography, autobiography, memoir, diary, bio-fiction and travel writing. In the course we will explore various life stories of men and women in the 20th and 21st centuries, who each had their own unique set of life experiences, beliefs and perceptions. This will help gain a richer understanding of how individuals move through, interact with, and are affected by the major events of their time — and how their lives are narrated, either by themselves or by others.

More details on the programme will follow soon.

Introduction to Digital Philology

Date: 23 March, 30 March and 1 April | Time: 15:15-17:00 (23 and 30 March), 13:15-17:15 (1 April) | Venue: Utrecht University (hybrid), see below | Instructor: Dr Gandolfo Cascio (Utrecht University) | Open to: PhDs and RMA students; OSL members have first access | Credits: 1EC | More information

Registration will open on February 2, 2022

NB: Credits can only be awarded to humanities ReMA and PhD students from Dutch universities.


By now, most writers have switched to computer writing; many of them are digital natives. Especially when dealing with digital texts, philology also faces a series of new theoretical and methodological challenges, such as the preservation of heritage, cataloguing and archiving of documents, ICT-related issues, as well as legal aspects.

This three-session workshop is intended to introduce students to a selected range of Digital Humanities research issues, with particular regard to keyword extraction and preparing digital critical editions.

Course objectives

The main objectives of this course are to provide both theoretical notions and practical competences in the field of digital scholarly editing, focussing on: 1) The archiving and cataloguing of material; 2) Knowledge and application of a suitable editing method, i.e. stemmatology and collation; 3) Hermeneutics and literary criticism.

Indicative working schedule

Session 1: Historical and theoretical framework / open discussion.

Session 2: Authorial archives and critical edition / workshop.

Session 3: The edited text / workshop / presentations.


Wednesday 23 and Wednesday 30 March
15.15-17.00 uur | Drift 25 Utrecht – room 301

Friday 1 April
13.15-17.15 uur | Drift 25 Utrecht – room 302


More details on the programme and assignments will be provided soon

Call for Papers: MLA Session on Literature and Human Rights

You are invited to propose a paper for the MLA session ‘Literature and Human Rights’, convened by members of the OSL research group Literature, Law and Society. The 2022 MLA convention will take place in Washington, DC from 6 to 9 January 2022. If interested, please send a 200-400 word abstract (+ short CV) to the contacts indicated below by Saturday 20 March 2021, end of day (Central European Time). NB: The session is not yet guaranteed at this stage. The general timeline for session proposals is described below:

  • 20 March 2021: Deadline for abstracts
  • 1 April 2021: Session proposal is submitted to MLA; Those who submitted an abstract are informed about the outcome of the selection.
  • May 2021: MLA informs convenors regarding the outcome of their session proposal.
  • 6-9 January 2022: MLA Convention.


Contacts: Dr Ted Laros, Open University (ted.laros@ou.nl) and Dr Alberto Godioli, University of Groningen (a.godioli@rug.nl).

OSL Workshop: How Not to Write a Novel

OSL Workshop: How Not to Write a Novel

Amsterdam, UvA and Eye Filmmuseum, 20 May 2022, 13:00-18:00 | Organizer: Prof. Dr. Pablo Valdivia (Groningen); Invited author: Jesús Carrasco | 1-2 EC | Open to: PhD candidates and RMA students; OSL members have first access


THE WORKSHOP IS FULLY BOOKED, please send an e-mail with your name, university and research school to osl@rug.nl. We will put you on our waiting list. If you only want to attend the screening, we have a few places available. Please specify your preference on which part(s) you want to when emailing us.

How not to Write a Novel seems to be a joke but it is not. This workshop delivered by the Spanish writer Jesús Carrasco (De Vlucht 2013, De Grond Onder Onze Voeten, 2016, both published in Dutch by Meulenhoff) tries to be a record of his experience in writing his third novel. But why should the writing of a third novel be so difficult? Why not the second? The answer is simple. The second novel was written just after the first one was finished and before it was published. That means that neither of them was written with real readers in mind. This makes a difference, and this idea is the starting point for this workshop. The paradox of directing a literary work to the readers (without whom fiction writing is incomplete) and, at the same time, the necessity of getting rid of the presence of the readers in order to finish the work free from external influence. It is absurd to write fiction pretending no one is waiting for the text. Writing, unless you write a diary strictly reserved for your own eyes, is an act of communication. Literature is a message in a bottle cast into the sea in the belief that forces that the author can’t control, like the tides in the ocean, will drive the text to the readers on the shores. What the author did wrong in that attempt will give the workshop participants a glimpse of what amazing things can happen when trying to write a novel.


The event will be structured as follows:

13:00-14:30 Workshop and Q&A with Jesús Carrasco

14:30-16:00 Break

16:00-18:00 Introduction and screening of the film Intemperie (Benito Zambrano, 2019)

More details on preparation and assignments will follow soon.


Suggested readings:

Dillard, A. (1990). The writing life. New York: HarperPerennial.

Rilke, R. (2011). Letters to a young poet & The letter from the young worker, translated, edited and with notes and an afterword by Charlie Louth; introduction by Lewis Hyde. London: Penguin.

Roth, P. (2001). Shop talk: A writer and his colleagues and their work. London: Cape.

King, S. (2012). On writing: A memoir of the craft. London: Hodder.

Stevenson, R. L. (1911). “The Ideal House”. Selected Essays (Lit2Go Edition). Retrieved May 04, 2020, from https://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/110/selectedessays-of-robert-louis-stevenson/5116/the-ideal-house/

Woolf, V., & Woolf, L. (1978). A writer’s diary: Being extracts from the diary of Virginia Woolf. London: Triad Grafton.