Universiteit Leiden

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Esther Op de Beek

University Lecturer

Dr. E.A. Op de Beek
+31 71 527 4381

Esther Op de Beek is a University Lecturer and project manager at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society.

More information about Esther Op de Beek

Fields of interest

  • Art Criticism, Evaluation and Reception
  • Happiness and/in Literature
  • Effects of literature
  • Literary Industry
  • Periodical Research
  • Contemporary novels


My dissertation, ‘‘A First-Class Literary Phenomenon’. A Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis of Evaluations in Dutch Book Reviewing’, concerned the evaluations of critics in literary book reviewing in Dutch newspapers between 1955 and 2005. Analyses of literary evaluation in its Dutch literary-historical context have so far tended to concentrate on specific case studies – the reception of a single book or author, the poetics of a single reviewer – or on sociological aspects of book reviewing. I aimed to explore and describe the developments and continuities that might be gleaned from evaluative statements in book reviews. Both the critics’ judgments on (and characterizations of) literary works in reviews were considered relevant, because they affect relations and positions in the literary field. By having employed both quantitative and qualitative analyses of evaluative statements, I endeavoured to test prevailing – but hitherto uncharted – hypotheses concerning various continuities and transformations in the realm of newspaper reviews of literary novels, such as : the effects of the so-called ‘ontzuiling’ – the dismantling of religious and socio-political barriers in the Netherlands in the fifties – on the evaluation of books; the presumed influence of the structuralist literary magazine Merlyn (1962-1965) on literary evaluation; and the influence of changing hierarchical cultural classifications (Janssen 2005) on distinctions about literary quality.

My current research focuses on the representations of happiness (and literature) in modern literature. Which emotional repertoires are referred to in contemporary novels? How, i.e. with the use of which literary devices (composition, (emotional) style, narrative)? In what kind of emotional spaces, such as home, work, family, relations? What are the effects of these literary devices? I aim at combining this textual approach with the analysis of reading experiences: how do readers write about the representations of happiness, literature and emotions and the effects of literature in different media or communities (academic, journalistic, books clubs, social media, blogs)? What are the (emotional) codes of these different media/receptive discourses/spaces? Can literature be seen – judging by reader’s opinions – as a space of happiness?

As is already underlined by others, ‘happiness’ might function as a fruitful concept to interconnect recurrent themes such as globalization, freedom, love, relationships, the act of writing or reading, well-being, etc. in studying literature and its functioning today.

Teaching activities

In 2014-2015 I will coordinate or/and participate in courses on Modern Dutch Literature from an international perspective, Literary Analysis and interpretation and Stylistics.

Curriculum vitae

Esther Op de Beek (Breda, 1979) is assistant professor in Modern Dutch Literature at Leiden University. She obtained her Master’s degree in Dutch Language and Culture (cum laude) at the Radboud University Nijmegen in 2005, graduating with a thesis on the foregrounding of epistemological and ontological questions in the novels of Cees Nooteboom. During her studies, Op de Beek was active in all sorts of extra-curricular activities. She was fulltime Student Assessor of the Faculty Board (Radboud University, Faculty of Arts) for two years, student member of the QANU Inspection Committee for Germanic Language and Culture Studies and member of the editorial staff of the Radboud University’s Magazine VOX. In 2006 she received the Radboud Student Award (certificate of merit from the Board of Governors). From 2005-2007 she worked as a student counsellor and teacher in the department of Literary and Cultural Studies.

In 2007 Op de Beek started her PhD-research on literary book reviewing in Dutch newspapers, which was part of a larger NWO-funded research project titled The Best Intentions, Literary Criticism in the Netherlands 1945-2005. During the project, Op de Beek worked as visiting scholar at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2009 (due to a grant from the Deutsche Akademische Austausch Dienst), and, in 2011-2012, as a teacher at the department of Dutch Modern Literature at the University of Amsterdam. She received her PhD from the Radboud University Nijmegen in January 2014, having been working, at that time, as an Assistant Professor at the same university since September 2012, in both the departments of Dutch Language and Culture and Literary and Cultural Studies. Op de Beek has been editor of TS.Tijdschrift voor Tijdschriftstudies (Journal for Periodical Research) since 2005.

University Lecturer

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Centre for the Arts in Society
  • Moderne Nederlandse L&C

Work address

Reuvensplaats 3-4
2311 BE Leiden
Room number 2.23



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