The Department of English Literature

Comings and goings

Following the departure of some members, our department has now been expanded to include four new members. The remaining members – Cees van den Akker, Hans van der Weide, Christa de Jager and Henny de Boer – are very pleased to introduce:

Alfred Haandrikman, Tiny Kleinee-Ram, Corrie Meesters and Simone Punselie.

The first meeting of the new season has already taken place and so discussions about which great books are suitable for next year’s list are in full swing.

We owe many thanks to Els de Wit, a member of the English Department from the very start, and Elise Prins-Kleuskens, also a long-term member, who were both closely involved in reading and writing about English books and in all kinds of additional activities.

How we work

In the period September to December, we meet once or twice to discuss and decide on plans for the coming season. Each member of the group brings a list of novels they have read and would like to propose. With different backgrounds and tastes, these lists comprise a wide range of subject matter, style and story. A potential longlist of books suitable for reading groups is put together, a mixture of new and older publications. We discuss these books and all books chosen for the longlist are then read by at least two or three members of the working group.

Then we meet again in January to select 10 to 15 books from the longlist. When we make this final selection, the most important criteria is whether they are suitable to be discussed by members of a reading group.

We try to offer a wide variety of books:
- authors from various English-speaking countries;
- different periods, subjects and settings;
- different genres: we have chosen not only novels, but also novellas, collections of short stories, thrillers and an epistolary novel, for example.

Interesting essay about the role of reading communities

Esmé van den Boom is the student who wrote the reader’s guide for Possession in 2017. She has also written an essay on “The role of reading communities in the canonization of authors of colour: a case study of Senia’s English reading groups” for the master course on Book History (Master Writing, Editing and Mediating).

The number of racially diverse books on the list of titles and the way they were selected is investigated in this essay. One of the conclusions of Esmé's research is “that Senia’s choice of titles leaves room for improvement concerning diversity.”
Although the English Workgroup undertakes to offer a variety of books, taking into account a.o. countries of origin, gender, year of publications etc., the most important – yet subjective - criterium is that the books should be first-rate and suitable for discussion in the reading groups.

Cooperation with Rijksuniversiteit Groningen 

On the university website you can read (in Dutch) more about the cooperation between Senia and the university. Here you can also find an interesting research dissertation on ‘Communication in English Reading Groups’.

About students writing the guides

Esmé van den Boom - Possession

I'm a 23-year-old student of (English) literature who can't keep herself from reading in the dead of night, ever since her mother read her Harry Potter and she would sneak out of bed to secretly read the next chapter. Although I started my studies with a bachelor in Dutch literature, it has always been the more international scope of Anglo-American literature that attracted me. I took some extra courses in the English department and fell in love with just about anything my lecturers would put on the syllabus - and thus a bachelor in English Literature followed.

Anne Kooistra - Nutshell

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved to read. I was a frequent visitor of the local library, and reread some of my favourite books over and over again. When the time came to choose what I wanted to study at university, I just knew it had to be something related to literature. After going back and forth between Dutch and English for some time, I eventually chose English, since the literature was more appealing to me, and the language oh so beautiful. Not once did I regret that decision!

Karin Renkema - The Little Red Chairs

I have always had a fascination for literature, and for the English language in particular. My time as a child was spent not only reading a lot of English books, but also watching English and American television series and films, so my interaction with the English language started early. The choice to study English was therefore not a difficult one. It was the perfect opportunity to transform my passion into a field of study.