Artist in Residence: Paulien Cornelisse

Dutch at Sheffield is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Throughout 23-24, we host a programme of events and we welcome a special guest. Our Artist in Residence is writer, documentary maker, and comedian Paulien Cornelisse.

artist Paulien Cornelisse in a red jumper looks at the camera while supporting her hear on the side
Artist in Residence Paulien Cornelisse (image: Frank Ruiter)

As our Artist in Residence, Paulien Cornelisse will run a programme of activities for Dutch Studies as well as for the wider community of SLC. For a whole year, Jessop West will be her home and centre of operations. 


Cornelisse is a highly versatile writer and performer. She tours the Low Countries with one-woman shows, and in addition has written three best sellers on language and is regularly praised for her language virtuosity. She records her observations about everyday Dutch in short, humorous pieces that often focus on the peculiar, the illogical and the magical quality of language.

Three covers of books by Cornelisse

Cornelisse does not limit herself to the Dutch language. In addition to her degree in psychology at the University of Amsterdam, Cornelisse studied at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and at the University of Hiroshima in Japan. She expressed her fascination for the Japanese language and culture in a book Japan in honderd kleine stukjes (Japan in one hundred small pieces) and a documentary series: Tokidoki. Tokidoki was shown on Dutch television in 2018 and 2020 in a series of eight episodes each centring around a Japanese word, phrase or concept such as 'Mono no aware', the beauty of the impermanent.  

paulien cornelisse standing next to a japanese open air restaurant

Paulien Cornelisse“As a Dutch writer writing about contemporary Dutch I am delighted to spend one year at the University of Sheffield, working with students of Dutch helping them to make their Dutch sound more fluent. But I am also hoping to reach beyond the Dutch Studies community and work with students and colleagues in the School of Language and Cultures, for example around storytelling and storywriting. We will kick off with two non-fiction workshops in November. 

Meaningless Words?

Dutch is a language with an astonishing array of seemingly meaningless words that are used to flavour a conversation. When you are just starting to learn Dutch, you learn about grammar and ‘proper’ Dutch. However, Dutch has a wealth of little words or sounds that give meaning, mood and colour such as hèhè, hoor, nou, etc.  You hear them all the time, but you rarely find them in a coursebook. My project focusses on these mood makers and I hope to explore these linguistic phenomena and some of my speaking tricks with the students. The outcome of our workshops will be available to the Dutch learners' community worldwide.

Telling your own story is rewarding and it can be truly transformative

Paulien Cornelisse

SLC Artist in Residence

In addition and as part of the 75th anniversary, I will interview former students of Dutch and make a small book about their ongoing experiences with this exciting and, at times, weird language. What do they remember? What did their knowledge of Dutch bring them? Do they still feel a connection to the Low Countries? 

Finally, I am looking forward to working with students on storytelling. In the Netherlands, I co-lead a storytelling stage and podcast (Echt Gebeurd), and I think it is interesting and fun to have the students in Sheffield tell a story in Dutch about their own lives, live on stage without notes. Sounds nerve-wrecking? It is. But telling your own story is rewarding and it can be truly transformative."

Ultra short non-fiction workshops

Cornelisse is in Sheffield as Artist in Residence for more than just the Dutch cohort. Her art of story telling and writing will be shared more widely in the School of Languages and Cultures and beyond. The first event will be a series of two workshops under the title: Ultra Short Non-Fiction or the Art of Writing Columns. These workshops will take place on:

  • Wednesday 1 november 14.00 - 16.00       Venue: Jessop West SR 8
  • Wednesday 15 November 14.00 - 16.00     Venue: Jessop West SR 8  

Details and enrolment details to follow. Follow us on Facebook to stay in the loop.


Four students laughing while sat at a bench, outside the Students' Union

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