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Narratives of Low Countries History and Culture

Narratives of Low Countries History and Culture: Reframing the Past OPEN ACCESS

Jane Fenoulhet
Lesley Gilbert
Series: Global Dutch
Copyright Date: 2016
Published by: UCL Press
Pages: 242
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  • Book Info
    Narratives of Low Countries History and Culture
    Book Description:

    This edited collection explores the ways in which our understanding of the past in Dutch history and culture can be rethought to consider not only how it forms part of the present but how it can relate also to the future. Divided into three parts – The Uses of Myth and History, The Past as Illumination of Cultural Context, and Historiography in Focus – this book seeks to demonstrate the importance of the past by investigating the transmission of culture and its transformations. It reflects on the history of historiography and looks critically at the products of the historiographic process, such as Dutch and Afrikaans literary history. The chapters cover a range of disciplines and approaches: some authors offer a broad view of a particular period, such as Jonathan Israel's contribution on myth and history in the ideological politics of the Dutch Golden Age, while others zoom in on specific genres, texts or historical moments, such as Benjamin Schmidt’s study of the doolhof, a word that today means ‘labyrinth’ but once described a 17th-century educational amusement park. This volume, enlightening and home to multiple paths of enquiry leading in different directions, is an excellent example of what a past-present doolhof might look like.

    eISBN: 978-1-910634-99-8
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction (pp. 1-6)
    Jane Fenoulhet and Lesley Gilbert

    This volume contains a selection of papers given at the Second International and Interdisciplinary Conference of Low Countries Studies held at University College London in December 1994. The theme of the conference was ‘Presenting the Past’, and the three parts into which this volume is divided reflect the different approaches to the theme taken by contributors.

    The chapters in this part all consider the ways in which the past is taken up and reworked to form part of the present and also to project into the future.

    Jonathan Israel’s chapter examines the way in which the past enters current political...

  2. Part I: The uses of myth and history
    • Jonathan I. Israel

      It is perhaps not surprising that the Dutch Republic with its numerous political assemblies and consultative style of government should have been, in some ways, a more pervasively ideological society than virtually any other in seventeenth-century Europe. It seems likely also that lack of religious unity and of a powerful state church, combined with the inevitable need to deflect some of the impetus of theological strife and confessional rivalry, added to the persistent tendency of the Dutch political scene to become an arena for contending secular political ideologies. The relative weakness of the public church, combined with the comparatively strong...

    • Benjamin Schmidt

      Picture, if you will, Holland in the first half of the seventeenth century. Imagine yourself on a lazy afternoon stroll through Amsterdam, on a warm summer day in the early 1630s. The city, like the province, appears prosperous, though these are not entirely carefree days for the whole of the Republic. The by now Sixty Years War against Spain rages on, if somewhat more faintly at this stage and on the peripheries – in distant cities like Den Bosch, which Frederik Hendrik has recently reconquered, and Maastricht, where Dutch troops maintain a successful siege. Religious feuds inherited from the 1620s...

    • Bart De Groof

      Although the military campaigns of Ambrogio Spinola, chief of staff to the archdukes Albert and Isabella, general and later minister to the kings Philip III and Philip IV of Spain, may seem of little importance against the background of the general evolution of the Eighty Years War, they certainly made a profound impression on contemporary historiography. Spinola was a Genoese nobleman with no real public profile until 1602, when he decided to join his brother Frederick in Flanders, bringing with him thousands of Italian soldiers, at his own expense, to serve the cause of the Spanish king and the archdukes...

    • Cynthia Lawrence

      Over the course of the seventeenth century the Dutch national assembly as well as the regional assemblies and admiralties commissioned a series of monuments honouring naval officers killed in the line of duty.¹ The calls for these memorials, their designs and iconography, their popular reception and their propagandistic exploitation offer a unique perspective on the priorities and aspirations of their sponsors, and, more generally, on the political and cultural milieu of the Dutch Republic during its first century.

      During this period the tombs of the Dutch naval heroes were elevated to the status of national shrines – public monuments where...

    • Marijke Meijer Drees

      ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’: to die for the fatherland is sweet and beautiful. This line comes from the second of Horace’s Roman odes, which is dedicated to the real happiness of the human being and the greatness of Rome under Augustus. The common patria was highly esteemed in those days; it coincided as it were with theres publica Romana, that is to say with the ethical, religious and political values which Rome embodied and symbolized.¹ This Rome has been the great inspiration to entire generations of later Western European poets who have sung of heroic self-sacrifices...

    • Harry Van Dyke

      The historian, publicist and statesman Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer (1801–76) fathered a number of societal configurations in his country which to this day tie together the complex consociational democracy that is the Netherlands. He accomplished this on the basis of a comprehensive historical interpretation of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. He viewed the ‘Age of Reason and Revolution’ as the eclipse of Christendom and the emergence of post-Christian modernity, a vision which he summarized in his book of 1847,Ongeloof en Revolutie. In a long career he made it his mission to combat the fruits of ‘the Revolution’...

    • Gevert H. Nörtemann

      Recent research on the problem of collective identities points uniformly to the conclusion that the identity of a group is above all the product of a collective memory.¹ In the collective memory, factual history is transformed into myth; yet this transformation does not make history unreal. Quite the contrary, it thereby becomes reality, in the sense of a normative force. The group selectively takes possession of history and imbues it with meaning, in such a way as to create a fiction of continuity that serves the group’s self-definition.² It is not only the orally transmitted myths of non-literate societies that...

    • Frank Peeters

      In 1985 Joris Vlasselaers published a penetrating study of literary awareness in Flanders between 1840 and 1893. He did not base his research on the primary literary material but on a broad corpus of literary periodicals and he justified this choice as follows: ‘It constitutes a fully definable and structured network of critical and theoretical metatexts revealing up-to-date concretizations of contemporary and traditional literary production, thematizing aesthetic norms and ideological presuppositions, articulating the current discourse on the cultural and specifically artistic and literary codes.’¹ Although much more modest in its scope, this chapter nevertheless aims to provide an impetus for...

  3. Part II: The past as illumination of cultural context
    • Anna Jane Harris

      Van Nyeuvont, Loosheyt ende Practike: Hoe sij Vrou Lortse verheffen, Nyeuvontfor short, is a play, printed around 1500, revolving around the deceitful elevation of a false saint. It was printed by Roland van den Dorpe, an Antwerp printer who worked between 1496 and 1500.¹ Vrouw Nyeuvont, the instigator of this plan, enlists the help of two lawyers, Loosheyt and Practijke, to aid her with the elevation. They in turn present her with two men, thecassenaersHardt van Waerseggen and Cleyn Vreese, who help to carry the relics of Sinte Lorts and sell indulgences. The wordcassenaerstems from...

    • Jaap Goedegebuure

      Reading the fourth chapter of Genesis, which contains the well-known story of Cain and Abel, Samuel Hamilton gives the following comment: ‘Here we are – this oldest story. If it troubles us it must be that we find the trouble in ourselves.’ For me these words represent the heart of reading and interpreting, writing and rewriting. Whenever we are confronted with the old stories – biblical, mythological, fairy tales – our reactions cannot be limited to aesthetic judgements. We are impressed or even moved by them. We feel the urge to search in our minds for the real causes of...

    • Henri A. Krop

      Many Dutch humanists – Stevin, Grotius, Geulincx, Hooft, Van Beverwijck, Van Leeuwenhoek, Leeghwater – were convinced of the great antiquity of the Dutch language, and of its decisive influence on other languages. As Dijksterhuis has observed, their views on this matter originated in the ‘fantastic’ theories of the Antwerp physician Johannes Goropius Becanus (1518–72),¹ according to whom the language of the Low Countries surpasses all other tongues in perfection and antiquity.² The popular seventeenth-century Dutch writer Gerbrandt Bredero praised him for calling the Dutch language (ons eijghen moederstael) an originator of other languages (een taelmoeder),³ and in the first...

    • Ron Spronk

      In 1572 Philips Galle engraved the Wonders of the World, after designs by Maarten van Heemskerck. Eight engravings were part of this series. In this chapter, I want to examine Maarten van Heemskerck’s use of literary sources for this series, especially those from antiquity.

      Celebrated monuments that were labelled as Wonders of the World have been known since antiquity. The history of this concept is complicated, however, since the canon of monuments accepted as Wonders of the World has always been subject to change,¹ even in recent studies.² Eight distinct lists of Wonders existed in antiquity, but only the Colossus...

    • Christiane Hertel

      The idyllic may be one of the concepts of everyday life one trusts least today and the same may be said about the idyll as a genre of writing and of painting. Within a primarily German cultural context, the best formulation of such scepticism may be Theodor W. Adorno’sAesthetic Theory, in which the author argues the impossibility of any resting place in art.¹ Good and important art may exist, yet it must come to an end in itself, must be prepared to silence itself through its own self-critical negation. Such negation means risk-taking: productive within the work of art,...

  4. Part III: Historiography in focus
    • Anne Marie Musschoot

      It is a strange but meaningful coincidence: never before has representation of historical reality been questioned so severely and intensely as today, at a time when eminent and successful historians tend to consider historiography as an ennobled form of storytelling, and when the genre of the historical novel gives evidence of a clearly marked revival.¹ Postmodern fiction, to name the unnameable, seems to have reintroduced the historical novel, which is now proliferating on a wide scale and in many varieties likely to fascinate the public and maybe even more so literary historians and typologists for many years to come. But...

    • Liesbeth Brouwer

      Hayden White, a theoretician of history who has recently gained a considerable influence among historians and those scholars interested in the philosophy and theory of history, called the nineteenth century ‘history’s golden age’.² The twentieth century cannot be so regarded. On the contrary: in the three decades following World War II historiography and the historical outlook on the world seemed to be linked with everything that characterized the old Europe, everything that was conservative and that had somehow failed to put an end to that same war. These three decades have not without reason been called neo-positivist and pragmatist. A...

    • Tom Verschaffel

      In the Southern Netherlands as elsewhere in Europe, Latin had been the language of intellectual life and higher culture for centuries. In the eighteenth century, it had lost this privileged position. It nevertheless remained the language of the church and the university and, to a certain extent, of education in general. This general view is reflected in the position of Latin as used in the historiography of the time. Even here, Latin went out of use, with the exception of the fields of monastic and church history and that of legal history.¹ For example, monastic histories were still frequently written...

    • Frans Ruiter

      In this chapter, I would like to sketch the historical background of the journalLeiding. In particular, I shall concentrate on its main editor, the poet and literary critic P. N. van Eyck.Leiding, which can be translated in English as ‘guidance’, existed for only two years, from 1930 to 1931. It published articles on literary, historical and political topics.

      So far, literary historians have not paid much attention to the journal. In comparison, other journals from the same period, such asDe Vrije Bladen, Forum, De Gemeenschap, have been studied exhaustively. Clearly,Leidinghas not been considered very interesting....

    • Nel Van Dijk

      In the Netherlands Menno ter Braak (1902–40) is considered a leading critic of the pre-war period.¹ The importance attached to him is comparable with that attached to T. S. Eliot in English literature. Like Eliot, Ter Braak had a wide range of talents and like Eliot, he left his mark on various areas of cultural life. Two short quotations may serve to illustrate the lasting presence of Ter Braak. Recently, the author Willem Frederik Hermans called him ‘the last Dutch taboo’. Hermans was referring to Ter Braak’s suicide shortly after the outbreak of World War II. He was trying...

    • Godfrey Meintjes

      Literature written in the Afrikaans language, an offshoot of the seventeenth-century Dutch dialect of the province of Holland, is by definition a product of the socio-political power emanating from a colonial hegemony; moreover, the very canonization of that literature is a product of a particular ideological network. The aim of this investigation is torevisitexamples of texts which were written prior to the so-called ‘Renewal of Sixty’ and which traditionally werereveredand more recentlyreviledby critics.

      The traditionally acceptable and therefore institutionalized readings of canonized Afrikaans literary texts can inhibit the process whereby meanings are generated in...

    • Marcel Janssens

      This volume has an overall theme of ‘presenting the past’; among other things, the past of Dutch literature. My chapter deals with a rather new-fashioned approach to presenting the very recent past of Dutch fiction (occasionally also of Dutch poetry).¹ I am referring to Dutch prose texts written from the 1950s and the 1960s onwards, which are now generally and comprehensively called ‘postmodern’, whereas until some seven years ago they were not perceived in these terms at all. No contemporary critic ever used the label ‘postmodernism’ for the overtly non-mimetic, even anti-realistic texts of Ivo Michiels for instance, back in...