Found through Translation: Female Translators and the Construction of ‘Relational Authority’ in the Eighteenth-Century Dutch Republic


  • Lieke van Deinsen Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
  • Beatrijs Vanacker Katholieke Universiteit Leuven



Dutch women writers, relational authority, translation, self-representation, authorship construction


‘It is a pity that not someone like Christina Leonora de Neufville found the time to take on that work’, translator and author Elizabeth Wolff stated when she set eyes on one of the Dutch translations of Voltaire’s Mahomet (1741) in October 1770. Wolff’s comments on these translations provide fascinating insights into some of the underlying dynamics of the eighteenth-century Dutch literary marketplace, where translations made up an important part of the literary production. As recent studies in the field of translation studies have stressed, early modern translations seldom proved to be straightforward renditions of the original but provided eager and upcoming authors to make their claim to literary fame as the translator of more renowned authors. Translating in particular turned out to be a unique opportunity for many early modern European women writers, who often still struggled to establish their names. The case of the Dutch Republic, with its advanced print culture and strongly internationally oriented book market, however, remains hitherto understudied.

This article examines the role translation played in the careers of three Dutch women writers by showing how they used their role as translators to establish and renegotiate their name and (literary) authority, often by interacting directly with the reputation of the translated author. We will use the concept of ‘relational authority’ to address the ways in which Wolff herself, as well as fellow authors Christina Leonora de Neufville and Margaretha Cambon-Van der Werken, used translation as a textual platform to convey their intellectual posture and voice. Our analysis will focus specifically on both the textual and visual dimension of their public image-building by considering how ‘relational’ representations appear in paratexts and portraits respectively.


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Author Biographies

Lieke van Deinsen, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Lieke van Deinsen is NWO postdoctoral research fellow at KU Leuven and VU Amsterdam, where she conducts research on the visual representations of female authorship and authority in the early modern Low Countries. In 2017 she completed her PhD on eighteenth-century processes of literary canon formation (Literaire erflaters. Canonvorming in tijden van culturele crisis, Hilversum 2017). In the capacity of Johan Huizinga Fellow she has published The Panpoëticon Batavûm. The Portrait of the Author as a Celebrity (Amsterdam 2016).

Beatrijs Vanacker, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Beatrijs Vanacker is FWO postdoctoral fellow at KU Leuven, where she conducts research on the transnational spread of the novel in the eighteenth century, with a focus on translation and women writers. She wrote Altérité et identité dans les ‘histoires anglaises’ au XVIIIe siècle (Leiden 2016) and has published widely on the novel and cultural identity formation in the Enlightenment, eighteenth-century women’s writing (Riccoboni, Haywood, and Leprince de Beaumont), and literary translation.




How to Cite

van Deinsen, L., & Vanacker, B. (2019). Found through Translation: Female Translators and the Construction of ‘Relational Authority’ in the Eighteenth-Century Dutch Republic. Early Modern Low Countries, 3(1), 60–80.