Novel Perceptions. Comparing Literary Values in Different Countries

How do novels’ textual features shape readers' perceptions of literary value? Professor Karina van Dalen-Oskam will present her innovative research on perceptions of literary quality in this open lecture.

Some books. Karina van Dalen-Oskam.

Photo: from left: Suzy Hazelwood, Pexels. Karina van Dalen-Oskam, photo by Jeroen Oerlemans.

Which features of a novel help readers perceive it as having high or low literary quality? Can we trace a clear genre hierarchy in the perception of readers, and if so, how are literary novels by female authors valued compared to those written by men?

In this lecture, Professor Karina van Dalen-Oskam will respond to these questions by presenting her cutting-edge research on perceptions of literary value.

Uncovering literary trends

Karina van Dalen-Oskam is principal investigator in the Dutch collaborative project The Riddle of Literary Quality. The project applies a mixed-methods approach to investigate the relationship between a novel’s formal characteristics and literary quality.

Using surveys and stylometry tools (computational stylistics), the group investigates the relationship between readers’ opinions and formal characteristics in a corpus of 400 novels. The results uncover literary trends in the Netherlands which, the collaborators suspect, may be a reflection of still existing inequalities and gender-bias in Dutch society today.

Karina van Dalen-Oskam will describe the methods and findings from the project in more detail. She will also talk about how they are now taking the project globally, starting with the United Kingdom, to see whether a comparable approach uncovers the same or different conventions in other countries.

Register for the lecture on Zoom


Karina van Dalen-Oskam (external link) is head of the department of Literary Studies at Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands and Professor in Computational Literary Studies at the University of Amsterdam.

Published Oct. 19, 2020 4:03 PM - Last modified Oct. 20, 2020 9:35 AM