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Research Group Auto/biography

The project group (Auto)Biography of the Huizinga Institute is an interdisciplinary group of researchers who are studying auto/biographical writing from the Middle Ages to the present. The project group, which was initiated by Rudolf Dekker (EUR) and Solange Leibovici (UvA), meets four times a year.

The main areas of research include the development of the genres of autobiography, diary-writing and letter-writing in various language regions since the Middle Ages, their interaction with literature, and the use of egodocuments as sources for historical research.

With the financial support of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), collaboration has been established with the University of Basel (Historical Seminar, Prof. K. von Greyerz) and the Free University of Berlin (Fr.-Meinecke Institut, Prof. C. Ulbrich, DFG project 'Self-Narratives in Transcultural Perspective'). This collaboration had led to conferences in Amsterdam, Basel and Berlin.

In 2006 the project group was also involved in the conference 'Controlling Time and Shaping the Self: The Rise of Autobiographical Writing since 1750', which took place at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, from 15 to 17 June 2006. The conference was part of an NWO program headed by Dr. Arianne Baggerman, 'Controlling time and shaping the self: education, introspection and practices of writing in the Netherlands 1750-1914.'
Various members of the work group presented papers at this conference.
Lectures were given by Peter Burke (Cambridge), Marina Warner (University of Essex), Peter Fritzsche (University of Illinois), Dror Wahrman (University of India), Philippe Lejeune (University Paris-Nord) and John Eakin (University of Indiana).

The project group provided an important stimulus to Egodocuments and History, an international series edited by Arianne Baggerman (FHKW EUR), Rudolf Dekker (FHKW EUR), and Michael Mascuch (University of California, Berkeley), in which various volumes, including monographs by members of the project group (such as Dr. Jeroen Blaak's dissertation on reading and writing in 17th- and 18th-century egodocuments) will appear in the coming years. The papers presented at the conference in Rotterdam will also be published in this series.

In the coming years, contacts with scholars outside the Netherlands will be stepped up. Auto/Biography was the theme of conferences held in 2007 in Trento, Florence, and Bordeaux, where the project group was represented. Dr. Willemijn Ruberg organized a session on the'History of Emotions' at the ESSHC conference in Lisbon in February 2008. The project group has also begun to collaborate with the Centre for Narrative & Auto/Biographical Studies, an institute founded in 2006 at the University of Edinburgh. In 2009 the project group will be represented at the conference Academic Autobiography held in Pamplona from 26 to 28 March.

Dr. Rudolf Dekker