Lecture and Workshop Michael Schoenfeld

The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (Lucas)

presents a guest lecture by

Michael Schoenfeldt

John Knott Professor of English, University of Michigan


Lessons from the Body:

Disability, Deformity, and Disease in Shakespeare

Wednesday 6 April, 16.15, Vossius Room, Leiden University Library

All welcome!


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ACCESS director Inger Leemans nominated

ACCESS director Inger Leemans has been nominated for Viva400 2015: 400 women who excelled this year. Inger’s nomination is based on her research in the History of Emotions and the development of digital humanities techniques for emotion research. To support the nomination:



Inaugural lecture: Moved by Media and Emotion

Prof. dr. Elly Konijn

On Wednesday 30 September, professor Elly Konijn will give her inaugural lecture at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam on the subject of media and emotions. The lecture (in Dutch) will explore a broad range of media, from theatre to reality soap, from video games to social robots. One of the research projects professor Konijn is involved in is that of sociobot Alice: her research team aims to discover, with the help of community nurses and family, how this care robot should react to and speak with older women to reduce the effects of loneliness. Can people form affective ties with a robot, and can a robot replace a human being?

In her inaugural lecture, professor Konijn makes use of recent research to demonstrate how the emotions aroused by various media can influence people’s actions. She will also show how certain emotions incite people to turn to certain media, or how they subsequently trigger people to engage with these media in their daily lives.

For more information (in Dutch), see the announcement on the website of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.


Alice Cares – the documentary on care robot Alice, developed at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Embodied Emotions Update: Wringing hands and cold fright

The Embodied Emotions project aims to map the bodily expression of emotions in seventeenth and eighteenth century Dutch plays. Our hypothesis is that historical conceptions of the functioning of the body and the emotions may have been the basis for an altogether different classification of (primary) emotions and for a different bodily experience and expression of emotions. Are fear, grief, rage or joy felt in head, heart or belly? What were actors supposed to say and do when they were acting overwhelming sadness or hate? In cooperation with the Netherlands e-Science Centre, and with Nederlab, we explore the ways in which digital tools can be employed in the analysis of the bodily expression of emotions in early modern plays. A digital corpus of about 800 Dutch plays is provided by DBNL and Nederlab.

The Embodied Emotions Project aims to do three things:

–          Problematize the claim that bodily experiences and expressions of emotions are culturally universal.

–          Trace historical changes in the bodily expression of emotions on stage in the Netherlands 1600-1830.

–          Develop a methodology for tracing these changes by digital means in a sizeable corpus of texts.

As a test case, we have selected a corpus of circa 800 Dutch theatre plays written between 1600 and 1830. This particular genre lends itself well for this type of research, as plays usually contain many emotive expressions and in some cases stage directions that indicate what actors should do. On the one hand theatre displays a fictive world with imagined and very outspoken characters and emotions. On the other, the popularity of theatre and the size and heterogeneity of the audience suggests that the language and expression of emotions met the expectations of contemporaries.

In order to study such a large corpus, we aim to ‘teach’ computers to recognise emotions and the accompanying parts and workings of the body. To do so, we have made a smaller selection of 30 texts and annotated them by hand. Annotation means assigning meta-data to certain elements (words or phrases) in the texts. After that, the computer will be able to learn from these examples, and decide on its own what to do with the other texts, a process that is called ‘machine learning’.

In 2014 we developed an annotation scheme and made the time-consuming manual annotations. Also, ‘agreement tests’ had to be carried out in order to check whether all ‘taggers’ annotated in a consistent way and according to the guidelines. In 2015 we will first analyse the results of the manual annotation and subsequently those of the machine learning process. Simultaneously computer-engineers will work on tools for visualizing the results. We are looking forward to presenting you with the upcoming results.


The project is carried out by:

Director: Inger Leemans, Cultural History, VU


–          Janneke van de Zwaan, Escience engineer

–          Erika Kuijpers, Postdoc VU, History

–          Erik Tjong Kim Sang, Nederlab engineer

–          Wouter de Vries student assistent VU

–          Alinda den Hoed, Intern Meertens Instituut

–          Fieke Smitskamp PhD student VU

Active and affective advisors:

–          Isa Maks, Computation Linguistics, VU

–          Herman Roodenburg, Historical Anthropology, VU & Meertens Instituut

–          Kristine Steenbergh, Literature and Culture, VU

–          Nicolien van der Sijs & René van Stipriaan, Nederlab


For further information, please contact Inger Leemans (i.b.leemans@vu.nl) or Erika Kuijpers (erika.kuijpers@vu.nl)

In Search of Scents Lost

VU-scientists are awarded an NWO-grant for their research project on ‘geurkunst’ – the art of scent.

The project ‘In Search of Scents Lost: Reconstructing the Aromatic Heritage of the Avant-Garde’ will be conducted by Caro Verbeek of the Rijksmuseum, and an expert in the field of the history and art of scent and perfume.

Scents are fleeting, and also much neglected in our visual culture. However, there are many examples to be found in the past of ‘scent-art’: avant-garde artists developed and used scents to trigger memories, to provoke, or to make their art seem lifelike. In cooperation with the perfume industry and several museums in Holland and abroad, Caro Verbeek will reconstruct historical scents, and bring them alive once more.