The Written World: Literature and How It Writes Us | Symposium SIB-Utrecht

The Written World: Literature and How It Writes Us | Symposium SIB-Utrecht



Out of all the things humans have done throughout history, our need to tell stories is the one consistency. Stories are all around, they are what shaped our communities, our art, our cultures. And for as long as we have been able to write, the written world has flourished as rich as our own.

The world of literature is one of whimsy and tragedy, it allows us to experience worlds of hurt and wonder we could have otherwise never imagined. But how does literature impact our world today? How did the art form evolve, how does it impact us psychologically, and how can it help us better ourselves.

For answers to those burning questions (or other questions, similarly on fire) hop on by on the 11th of June 2022 at the Instituto Cervantes, Domplein 3, for the Written World Literature symposium, organised by SIB Utrecht. Join us in learning something old, something new, and maybe even share some stories of your own.

How does literature impact our world today? How did the art form evolve, how does it impact us psychologically, and how can it help us better ourselves?

Symposium committee

Symposium Countdown


Welcome: 10:00-10:45


Opening talk: 10:45-11:45

Ruth Clemens - Writers of the World Unite! Literature, Politics, and the Manifesto

Round 1: 11:50-12:50

Jasper Polane and Kim ten Tusscher -
The Power of Fantasy (Interactive Interview)

Annelous Stiggelbout - Lost in Translation? (Interactive Interview)

Lunch: 12:50-13:35
Round 2: 13:35-14:35

Esther Jansma - Poetry Workshop

Ewout van der Knaap & Francine Maessen - Literature around the World

Closing talk: 14:40-15:40

Roselinde Supheert - How literature writes us

Tea/Coffee Time: 15:40-16:15

Book Shop!

We are very happy to announce that we will be partnering up with Books 4 Life to provide our literature symposium with a very appropriate book shop! Looking to wind down in-between lectures? Feeling inspired to read after an interesting discussion? Just want an excuse to use the limited edition SIB Utrecht bookmark? Then come on by!

Books 4 Life Utrecht is volunteer-run second hand bookstore. The foundation collects and sells used books, CDs, LPs, and DVDs. 90% of their proceeds go to local and international charities.

Sessions & Speakers

Writers of the World Unite! Literature, Politics, and the Manifesto'

 During the opening talk we will zoom in on the history of the book and the way literature has formed our understanding and culture in the past. How did literature write us and our communities back in the day? And what are the major events and big names that paved the way for contemporary literature? After finding the answers to these questions you will be well prepared to follow any other session of your choice during the symposium! 

Ruth Clemens

Ruth Clemens is a professor in Literary Studies and currently working at the BA Literary Studies, BA English Language and Culture and BA Liberal Arts and Sciences at Utrecht University. Ruth Clemens is among other things an expert on philosophy and literature, modern literature, literature in the 19th/20th century and literary postmodernism.

The Power of Fantasy

Imagination is a powerful tool. It can be seen as the basis of new ideas, of innovation and development. It makes us think beyond what we have learned and have seen. Next to this, imagination and fantasy are also a great way to escape from reality. By reading we immerse into an unknown world, on an adventure into new ways of thinking. In this session we will discuss the power of imagination and fantasy in books. Why is it so attractive to escape into fantasy, science fiction or horror books? What makes good fantasy literature? Shouldn’t we all challenge ourselves to fantasize more? We will discuss these topics together with authors Jasper Polane and Kim ten Tusscher

Jasper Polane

Jasper Polane is a director, writer, and animator with extensive experience in children’s media. He has published written work for both children and adults. His adult debut Lege Steden was released in 2014. Since then, he has been a full-time science fiction writer and publisher. He is the founder of Quasis uitgevers.

Kim ten Tusscher

Kim ten Tusscher is a fantasy author, photographer and costume designer from the Netherlands. She has published eleven books, four of which have been translated into English. Her curiosity with the world and fascination for gray morality have deeply influenced her work.

I think the most fun thing of a SIB symposium is that you can enjoy talks on such various subjects but also socialize with SIB members.

Dana van UItert, SIB member

Lost in Translation?

A very important facet within the process of creating long-lasting literature is the translation process. Whether translating a hitherto unknown gem to an accessible lingua franca, to making a widely known novel accessible to a small minority of readers, translation brings us closer together, and enhances understanding between cultures
In this talk you will be guided through the process of translation. The thought process behind it, the way to best engage with a text, and how to preserve tone, even when the core aspect of the text completely changes.

Annelous Stiggelbout

Annelous Stiggelbout is a translator, interpreter, and sinologist. Besides being a translator and advisor for Dutch publishers looking to publish Chinese literature, she has worked for the Dutch embassy in Beijing, and also founded "Focus Chinees", a translation and interpretation service for governments and businesses.

Poetry Workshop

Always wanted to write poetry yourself, but didn’t know how to get started? Then the poetry workshop might be perfect for you! We will start with a brief introduction, during which lecturer Esther Jansma will provide tips and tricks on how to write a poem. After that we’ll go to work ourselves! Under the guidance of Esther Jansma, experience what it's like to engage with the heightened, yet very structural nature of poetry. Maybe you'll discover a hidden talent. Of course there will be ample space to share your creations at the end of the talk!

Esther Jansma

Esther Jansma is a poetess, prose writer and archeologist. She made her debut in 1988 and has won multiple literary awards during her career, including the ‘VSB Poëzieprijs’ and the ‘C.C.S. Crone-prijs’. Critics often praised her work. The process of making language out of images is also a form of archeology according to Esther Jansma. She sees poetry and prose writing as a form of archeology, during which one makes language out of images. 

It is very educational to organize such a big event and I am sure people will like it!

Roos Speelman, Symposium Committee 2021-2022

Panel Discussion: Literature around the World

Literature is everywhere. All around the world, people write, read and spread stories that shape their cultures and identities in their own unique ways. At the same time the very same stories that shape nations, travel far beyond the borders of those nations, inspiring people globally. Is there a transcendent aspect to literature that works at any place and time or is all literature bound by the authors context? Within Europe, everyone knows the name of great authors such as Jules Verne, Dostoyevski and Tolkien, but often our scope is limited to the borders of the west.  What can we yet learn from the great novels and stories from parts of the world that are foreign to us? How do literary traditions relate to their country or culture of origin? And what does that say about literature as a whole? 

Ewout van der Knaap

Ewout van der Knaap is chair of German literature and Culture at Utrecht University. He has published widely in the field of German literature, and discusses topics like the cultural memory of the Holocaust and the GDR, as well as committing himself to improving the subject of German in Dutch high schools. In 2018 he was awarded the Austrian cross of honour.

Francine Maessen

Francine Maessen is a researcher, literary scholar and Africanist, who studied at the University of Leiden. She is proficient in Literary- and Trauma Theory, and is currently writing her dissertation on Apartheidstrauma in the poetry of Breyten Breytenbach

How Literature Writes us

During the session ‘How Literature Writes Us’ we will focus on the way in which literature may influence our daily lives. This will be done by focusing on literary characters or adaptations and the way in which they provide role models for readers and viewers. How do these role models shape the reader’s view of society and themselves? And how are those role models adjusted across cultures and media? How do these role models write us and our society? Those are examples of questions that will be discussed during the session ‘How Literature Writes us’.

Roselinde Supheert

Roselinde Supheert teaches English language and literature and intercultural communication at Utrecht University. Within her research ‘Map Your Hero(ine)’ Ms. Supheert focuses on heroes and heroines in fiction. She wants to gain insight into the way that literary characters provide important role models for readers or viewers and how those characters may shape the view on society and the readers/viewers themselves.   

The event is organised very professionally. I really enjoyed it!

Thérèse Hoppenbrouwer, visitor 2021