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Female Faces, Intellectual Identities. Author Portraits and the Shaping of Female Intellectual Authority in the Early Modern Dutch Republic (2018-2020) 

This research project analyses portraits of Dutch women writers in the age of Enlightenment (1650-1800) as vehicles of public image in the male-dominated intellectual and literary field of the Dutch Republic, in order to investigate the historical struggle of women to represent and embody intellectual authority. A significant corpus of female author portraits is brought into dialogue with textual iterations and critical considerations of the depiction of female authority. The complex position of learned women in the public sphere in the early modern era has recently been the focus of increased attention. However, recent historical studies are characterized by a strongly biographical and text-based methodology and overlook a key issue in women writers’ public (self) display: their physical image. How did female intellectuals and their portraits iterate the seeming incompatibility between growing interest in the individual on the one hand and their limited options in the public sphere on the other? Structured by an array of multidisciplinary perspectives, this project is informed by and will contribute to literary, art, and cultural history, and gender studies, in providing a historical foundation for the still challenging issue of the depiction of female intellectual authority.

Women writers; authorship; intellectual identity; portraiture; material culture.