Adrian Armstrong (Queen Mary University of London) – Maerlant in French (Almost): Language, Verse, and Cultural Traffic in Late Medieval Bruges

In the late medieval Low Countries, French writing was translated into Dutch much more often than Dutch writing was translated into French. A rare example of Dutch-French translation – in fact the only known example of verse translation in this direction – is Harau Martin, a French verson of Jacob van Maerlant’s three Martijn poems. The text survives in fragments from an edition produced in Bruges around 1477, by the francophone printer Jean Brito. It has long been acknowledged that Harau Martin is not the work of a native French speaker: syntax and versification are heavily influenced by Dutch. But why would a small-scale printer bring out a Dutch literary classic in a manifestly inadequate translation? More importantly, what does this bizarre publishing venture tell us about the transcultural and cross-linguistic character of the region’s literary culture?

I propose three complementary perspectives on the case of Harau Martin. First, from a book-historical standpoint, Brito’s edition reflects a publishing strategy that is attested by his output as a whole: a quest for unexpected new audiences, including speakers of Dutch as well as French. Second, aspects of translation theory illuminate the cultural significance of the French rendering: as an instance of ‘foreignizing translation’ it extends the boundaries of the target literary system, in particular by introducing new poetic forms. Third, recent research in sociolinguistics suggests that the translation can be seen as a performance – intentional or not – of ‘stylized Dutch French’, which provokes not only individual pleasure but also in-group solidarity among francophone readers. As well as compelling a re-evaluation of an underrated printer, these perspectives reshape our understanding of what literary translation could achieve in the Burgundian Low Countries.

Peter Auger (Queen Mary University of London) – Adriaan Damman, Poet of International Protestantism

Adriaan Damman van Bijsterveld (d. 1605) was a sixteenth-century humanist and diplomat operating in the Low Countries and Scotland: he was Professor of Ethics at Leiden, Professor of Laws at Edinburgh from 1594 to 1597, and self-appointed Dutch Ambassador to Scotland in the 1590s. He was a favourite of James VI, and followed the Scottish King to England after his accession in 1603.

Through his writings, Damman promoted solidarity within the international Protestant movement of which James presented himself as figurehead. He composed a series of occasional verses, Schediasmata (Edinburgh, 1590), to commemorate James’s marriage to Anne. Three poems in Latin and Greek by Damman introduce James’s second collection of poetry, His Majesties Poetical Exercises (Edinburgh, 1591). His letters, Katrien Daeman-de Gelder writes, report on Scottish politics ‘from the point of view of a Flemish nobleman authorised by the States-General as their ambassador to Scotland’. Each of these texts illustrates Damman working across languages and national boundaries to pursue cultural diplomatic ends.

Damman’s greatest literary accomplishment was his Latin translation (printed in Edinburgh in 1600) of the most celebrated work of James’s favourite poet: La Sepmaine by Guillaume de Saluste Du Bartas. The little-studied presentation manuscript copy of Bartasias (National Library of Scotland, MS Adv. 19.2.10), dated 1596, sharpens our sense of Damman as a transnational poet in three ways. First, it contains commendatory verses by a host of British and continental writers, including several individuals (John Johnston, Balduinus Berlicomius and Thomas Jack) for whom Damman wrote similar verses. These demonstrate the reach of Damman’s intellectual community in Scotland, England and the continent.

Second, the many scribal revisions show that Damman adjusted his work to fit James’s preference, outlined in Reulis and Cautelis, for translations that did not embellish upon their source. And third, the manuscript text contains digressions that meditate on specific moments of Protestant suffering: in a preface, the poet writes that he began writing in 1584, when Alessandro Farnese was leading his Spanish troops east across Belgium and was about to take Ghent. Elsewhere he commemorates the passing of his son Theophilus, who died defending Hulst in November 1596. These references helped the manuscript promote a sense of international solidarity among Protestants.

Damman’s Bartasias – a Latin translation of a French poem translated for a Scottish monarch by a Flemo-Dutch nobleman – shows how Dutch literary culture was entangled with international political, ecclesiological and literary currents in the late-sixteenth century. Damman helps us recognize other transnational connections between Scottish and Dutch culture, especially with others who paid attention to James’s friendship with Du Bartas: Cornelis Drebbel, for example, composed a dedicatory verse to James in the style of Du Bartas for his Wonder-vondt van de eeuwighe bewegingh (1607). Damman’s Bartasias illuminates the participation of individuals from the Low Countries in a shared Protestant literary culture that operated through diplomatic channels, manuscript circulation among friends and well-timed print publications.

Bart Besamusca (Utrecht University) – Bruges’ literary culture in multilingual perspective: the case of Jacob van Maerlant’s Martijns

The thirteenth-century Flemish poet Jacob van Maerlant is the author of an impressive oeuvre in Middle Dutch verses, consisting of various chivalric romances, didactical texts, saints’ lives, a world chronicle, and a number of shorter texts. His productivity surely contributed to his great influence on later Middle Dutch authors, like the fourteenth-century Brabantine poet Jan van Boendale, who praised him for being ‘the father of all Dutch poets’. Jacob van Maerlant’s oeuvre has received much scholarly attention over the years, culminating in Frits van Oostrom’s impressive monograph Maerlants wereld (Amsterdam, 1996). While Maerlant’s texts have been thoroughly studied as part of the history of Dutch literature, it is informative to look at his oeuvre from a multilingual perspective. Then, his most interesting texts are the so-called Martijns, which are strophic texts in which two friends discuss all sorts of societal and religious problems. These highly complex Middle Dutch poems have been translated into Latin by the priest Johannes Bukelare, who may have been a contemporary of Maerlant. A French translation of the Martijns was printed by Johannes Brito after 1477. It is noteworthy that these activities seem to have been restricted to Bruges: Bukelare worked in nearby Sluis, and Brito’s printing house was located in Bruges. Scholars have suggested, moreover, that Maerlant was educated in Bruges. I propose to study this intriguing configuration of facts from a multilingual and cross-cultural perspective.

Jan Bloemendal (Huygens Instituut) – The Transnational Purport of Neo-Latin Drama from the Low Countries

In the sixteenth century some playwrights from the Low Countries such as Georgius Macropedius and Cornelius Schonaeus, Cornelius Crocus and Petrus Papeus, and Cornelius Crocus and Guilielmus Gnapheus met an international applause and some of their plays were printed, staged, translated and commented upon throughout Europe, and included in anthologies. To a lesser extent, seventeenth-century Neo-Latin tragedies from Hugo Grotius, Daniel Heinsius and Rochus Honerdus found their way through the European countries. The aim of this paper is to map the international resonance of Neo-Latin drama from the Netherlands and the routes they took, and to find explanations for this European acclaim. These investigations may shed light on the use of theories of transnational studies, transfer en literary fields.

Frans Blom (University of Amsterdam) – The International Circulation of Theatre: Amsterdam’s Schouwburg as a Hub in Europe

The Amsterdam Public Theatre or Schouwburg is one of the finest examples of early modern cultural entrepreneurship. As the first and, for a long time, the only permanent and public theatre in the Netherlands, it was the beating heart of Dutch cultural life and the physical home base for a widespread network of people involved in the production of performing arts. The theatre’s success would have been impossible without its repertoire of plays appealing to a large audience. To do this, the directors showed a keen eye for what happened abroad and imported foreign plays as a matter of course. The ONSTAGE data show a continuous staging of international blockbusters translated and adapted for local consumption, laying bare a virtually unexplored territory.

Until now, academic research has almost entirely focused on indigenous, patriotic plays by canonical playwrights such as Vondel, Hooft, and Bredero. Recent studies, however, demonstrate that imported plays dominated the repertoire. From the 1640s to the 1660s the most successful plays came from Spain’s great Siglo de Oro theatre. During the century’s last quarter the Amsterdam repertoire was refreshed by importing a new vogue, classicist plays from Paris, while the 18th century saw another change of tack in the form of bourgeois drama imported from Germany and Denmark. Imported plays which had success in Amsterdam, were in their turn exported to Germany and the Scandinavian countries, where theatres eagerly copied its successful business model. These plays were also adopted and toured by traveling theatre companies. Thus the Amsterdam Schouwburg’s international repertoire functioned successfully as a European theatre hub.

The presentation will focus on the repertoire which the Schouwburg produced 1638-1700. Adding to the traditional research perspective, it analyzes the vogues of international plays, playwrights and genres that contributed to the Amsterdam repertoire. Firstly, it investigates the dynamic balances between successful stock or repertoire pieces and the innovations by various imported drama types, such as tragedies, tragicomedies, opera’s, farces or civil drama, and in which periods of time. Secondly, the focus will be on the European transfer routes that were set up, as well as on the intermediary people involved in the production process of translation and local adaptation. Who were the Dutch translators and was there a cultural cooperation between the local theatre producers and migrant groups in the city, such as the Sephardim, the French Huguenots or the German workers, who were familiar with the international plays? Thirdly, why were some innovations more successful than others? In this way, the presentation reveals how the international vogues became an economic asset of the Schouwburg. Moreover, these findings have dramatic consequences for current views on the history of theatre and on the history of literature. What relevance is there for an international perspective in our histories of literature, in canonization processes or in the revival of theatrical heritage in society?

Feike Dietz (Utrecht University) – The significance of Anglo-Dutch literary exchange for the development of literacy education

Even though there is general scholarly consensus that youth literature in early modern Western Europe was spurred by many translations and transnational contacts, current research doesn’t reveal a lively Anglo-Dutch exchange in the field. Scholars identified a couple of children’s books that crossed the Channel, but they mainly fixed their attention on the wider dissemination of German books in England and the Netherlands.

This paper helps to revise our understanding of Anglo-Dutch cross-over in the field of youth literature. As such, it aims to contribute to our understanding of 1) the broader significance of international literary exchange, and 2) eighteenth-century youth literature as an instrument of literacy education. It has already been known that English eighteenth-century youth literature increasingly developed empirical didactics to teach literacy skills and to relate literacy to experiences beyond the book. I will, however, argue that Anglo-Dutch cross-overs were vital forces behind this shifting conceptualization and teaching of literacy in the field of youth literature.

My central case is the Dutch bestseller Kleine Grandisson (1782) and its English translation Young Grandison (1790). Both children’s novels rooted in transnational (mainly female) networks, were inspired by several textual models available in both England and the Dutch Republic, and spurred the development of new transnational literary products. I am, for example, the first to present the Dutch youth novel Maria en Carolina as a translation of a novel written by the famous philosophical writer Mary Wollstonecraft, who previously co-produced the English Young Grandison. Dynamic transnational exchange contributed to an expanding production of youth literature and a shifting literacy education.

Małgorzata Dowlaszewicz (University of Wroclaw) – Medieval religious literature of the Low Countries in Poland – an exploration

The religious movement of devotio moderna with its spiritual practices has surely contributed to the development of mysticism and individual religious experience in Europe. It is known that the ideas of devotio moderna have spread into Polish ground (the works of Thomas à Kempis were read and translated into Polish, the theological treaties of Jacobus de Paradiso who was active in Poland remain under their influence). Other important religious authors from the Low Countries, such as the women writers Hadewijch, Berta Jacobs or Jan van Ruusbroec seem to remain unnoticed until the end of the 19th century (at least that is what has been found so far).

In my presentation I would like to explore the many paths the reception of the medieval religious literature of the Low Countries has taken in Poland. I’ll give an overview of translations and adaptations of medieval religious texts from the Low Countries into Polish until the modern times (the last translation of the complete works of Ruusbroec has been published ten years ago). I’d like also to present the visibility of the medieval religious literature of the Low Countries in modern theoretical writings. It is clear that the information given in many scholar publications in Polish regarding the Dutch and Flemish medieval authors is based mainly on secondary readings from the past and rarely adjusts the information to the results of recent research.

Nina Geerdink (Utrecht University) – Poets and Patrons Crossing Borders

Within the framework of my NWO Veni project Poets and Profits. A New Literary History of Dutch Authorship (1550-1750) I am currently investigating relationships of patronage between Dutch poets and foreign patrons. Whereas patronage was an organizing mechanism in the whole of early modern Europe, and relationships of patronage between poets and the powerful and wealthy burgher elites in flourishing Dutch cities did occur frequently, as a consequence of the lack of a flourishing court culture more structural or formalized relationships of patronage were difficult to obtain within the borders of the Dutch Republic.

The most famous example of a poet seeking patronage abroad was Joost van den Vondel, who wrote poems for foreign rulers as diverse as Christina van Zweden, several Danish kings and queens, and Johan Maurits van Nassau, who was a Dutch prince but worked for the larger part of his life outside of the Dutch Republic, in Brazil and in the German county of Cleves. These poems by Vondel have never been analysed from the perspective of his economic advancement. I assume this advancement may have had a firm Dutch basis, since Vondel’s poems often mediated between Amsterdam and the foreign rulers, but at the same time, we know of some rewards Vondel received from the foreign rulers directly. In order to be able to say something about Vondel’s advancements the crossing border network must be taken into account, as well as the foreign contexts in which his poems functioned.

In my paper for the Ghent conference Literatures without Frontiers? about transnational networks of poets and patrons I will address cases that are not really (Elisabeth Hoofman, Maria Margaretha van Akerlaecken) or not at all (Jan van der Noot, Joost van den Vondel) unfamiliar in extant histories of Dutch literature but whose impact and importance could be brought out differently in a transnational framework, since this framework leads to both an increased understanding of the ‘business models’ of early modern Dutch authors, as well as emphasizes the importance of European courts for the development of Dutch literature. The case of Elisabeth Hoofman, for example, shows how a talented Dutch woman writer with reluctance to print-publish her works changed her strategy under the influence of the German landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, who advanced her with gifts and her husband with a job in his retinue. At the same time, Maria Margaretha van Akerlaecken, who wrote poems with a rather underwhelming literary quality, was probably incited by Johan Maurits van Nassau to print-publish what would turn out to be the first secular printed volume by a Dutch woman writer ever. She dedicated the volume to him and to the Great Elector, Frederik I van Brandenburg.

In my paper, I will elaborate on some of the mentioned poets and patrons and their relationships, reflecting on why and how a transnational approach is necessary in analysing these cases. I will also shortly address the methodological challenges this transnational undertaking brings about, mainly as related to archival research and one’s own networks as a researcher.

Lotte Jensen (Radboud University Nijmegen) & Suzan van Dijk (Huygens Instituut) – Caroline van Lichtfield: an international bestseller arriving in the Netherlands

Recently the University Library of Nijmegen acquired a copy of the Dutch translation of Caroline de Lichtfield. The title page of the book, published 1788, mentions its foreign origin (‘Naar het Fransch vertaald’, i.e. translated after the French), but reveals no further details about the original author nor the translator. The book was advertised for in several local newspapers and briefly referred to in a positive way in De Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen. It must have had some success, considering that a second edition was published as late as in 1818.

How can we situate this Dutch translation in the broader scope of the literary historiography of the Netherlands? In this paper we will argue that this work illustrates – once more – the need of a transnational approach in literary historiography of the early modern period. This translation leads us to one of those numerous bestsellers, which were erased from collective memory and often ignored in literary histories. Caroline de Lichtfield ou Mémoires d’une famille prussienne was published, in 1786, by the Swiss novelist Isabelle de Montolieu (1751-1832). She had been encouraged by the famous French educator Stéphanie de Genlis. The same year an English translation appeared, soon followed by translations in Dutch, German, Danish, Swedish, Spanish and Russian.

This sentimental novel by Montolieu offers the opportunity to see how generic conventions travelled through Europe, and to what extent they were ‘nationalised’. Laura Kirkley has shown, for instance, that the English translator, Thomas Holcroft, coloured his translation with idioms familiar to the English readership (Kirkley 2014, xviii).

The sentimental stances of this novel, written by the very Montolieu who would become one of her first translators (or adapters), may well have inspired Jane Austen herself: in particular her ironic stance towards sentimentality.

In this paper we will depart from a particular case of women’s novel writing and potentially gendered translating, in order to reflect upon the methodological consequences of cases like this. Thanks to a broad transnational approach justice can be done to European connections and influences, and also to gender aspects and women’s participation as authors and readers. We will in particular draw the attention to the NEWW VRE (New approaches to European Women’s Writing), a database which was conceived for containing and sharing data about women authors and their works from the middle ages up to c. 1900, and about the reception of their works by contemporaries as well as early literary historians (both men and women). This tool allows scholars to study writings by women (both individuals and groups) within their international context, and to decide about the place to be attributed to them in transnational historiography.


  • Caroline of Lichtfield. Edited by Laura Kirkley. New York: Routledge, 2014.
  • Suzan van Dijk, Petra Broomans, Janet F. van der Meulen and Pim van Oostrum (eds.), “I have heard about you”. Foreign women’s writing crossing the Dutch border: from Sappho to Selma Lagerlöf. Hilversum: Verloren, 2004.

David Napolitano (University of Cambridge) – An appeal to study Dutch mirrors-for-magistrates across linguistic, geographical and institutional frontiers

My paper will deal with mirrors-for-magistrates, a term coined to denote the republican, often overlooked counterpart of the better-known mirrors-for-princes genre. These political manuals targeted city magistrates with the aim of preparing them for their duties at the helm of a medieval city. More precisely, this case study will focus on a number of Dutch texts which have been linked – albeit with different degrees of certainty – to Jan van Boendale, town clerk of the city of Antwerp in the first half of the fourteenth century. The first text is a poem entitled Hoemen ene stat regeren sal. Boendale’s Leken Spiegel, Jans Teesteye and Boek vander Wraken also contain several chapters dealing specifically with the topic of city government. The fourth and final text is Onderwijs voor Schepenen, an anonymous work composed in mid-fifteenth century Ghent. It constitutes an expanded version of five chapters of the second book of the Dietsche Doctrinale. The figure of Jan van Boendale – and his literary heritage – deservedly take a prominent place in the recent Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse literatuur (Van Oostrom, 2013, pp. 137-175). A discussion of his works also takes up a large portion of a specialist study on treatises on city governments (Bierschwale & Van Leeuwen, 2005).

In my paper I will argue that it is, however, time to break through the traditional tendency to group – and study – these mirrors-for-magistrates by modern national and linguistic boundaries. More specifically, I will propose a transnational approach that puts these texts in dialogue with similar corpora produced in Northern and Central Italy (podestà literature) and in the Rhine Area (Ratspiegel) – two corpora that have been the subject of separate regional overview studies (esp. the studies by Artifoni (1986-present) and Isenmann, Ratsliteratur, 2003). In other words, my paper proposes to take an integrative look at the phenomenon of mirrors-for-magistrates in the three most urbanized regions of medieval Europe, stretching, albeit in successive waves, from the early-thirteenth up to the early-sixteenth centuries.

While the existence of textual links within these regional subgroups has already been highlighted by the cited scholarship, I will point out that the adoption of a transnational perspective permits researchers to discern the presence – or, at least as interesting, the absence – of transmission patterns across modern national boundaries. In addition, I will invite researchers to cross institutional boundaries as well. In fact, I will hold that the distinction between monarchical and republican forms of government should not blind us to the actor-centred approach to good government shared by both mirrors-for-princes and mirrors-for-magistrates. Furthermore, moving beyond the traditional acknowledgment of a general relationship between both corpora in existing scholarship (e.g. Hanauer, 1902; Berges, 1938; Jones, 2004; Anton, 2006; Fenzi, 2008) I will stress the added value of a detailed examination of the exact nature of this relationship – and the degree of correspondence – between both corpora. Finally, I will demonstrate that the adoption of such a transnational approach permits researchers to study an interesting set of similarities and contrasts between the Dutch mirrors-for-magistrates and the other regional subgroups, both at a material and content level. Throughout my paper, I will pay particular attention to the methodological consequences of adopting such an integrative approach across linguistic, national and institutional frontiers (e.g. the criteria to be used when selecting and comparing mirrors-for-magistrates and mirror-for-princes, the need to understand these texts within their proper historical context or the requirement to filter comparison results for differences in institutional set-up).

James A. Parente, Jr. (University of Minnesota) – The Transnational Origins of the Dutch Novel: History and Empire in Johan van Heemskerck’s Batavische Arcadia (1637)

In 1637, the poet-lawyer Johan van Heemskerck, an enthusiastic reader and translator of the erotic poetry of Ovid and the sixteenth-century pastoral novels of Honoré d’Urfé and Philip Sidney anonymously published his own first effort at a prose pastoral Inleydinghe tot het ontwerp van een Batavische Arcadia. Enthusiastically received by its readers, the Batavische Arcadia was reprinted several times in the 17th and 18th centuries, and subsequent literary historians acclaimed the work as the first Dutch novel. In 1647 a second edition was published that added an extensive multilingual commentary on historical, legal, and political matters related to the original work, transforming the slim pastoral narrative into an expansive scholarly compendium of the Dutch nation, and its laws and customs from antiquity to the present.

Despite its renowned status in the Dutch literary canon, scholars have generally avoided an extensive analysis of this unwieldy pastoral cum commentary. The hybridity of the form, content, and languages of Heemskerck’s “novel” have baffled literary historians accustomed to aligning literary works with specific genres and a single language. The Batavische Arcadia can be more successfully analyzed in a transnational, multilingual context in which Heemskerck’s work is regarded as a critical adaptation of the pastoral novels of Sidney and D’Urfé for the cosmopolitan readers of the new Dutch Republic. In my paper, I shall (1) place Heemskerck’s novel in the context of the Renaissance pastoral, and the ways in which the pastoral shaped the social and political landscape of an emerging European nation; (2) analyze Heemskerck’s representation of an imagined Dutch identity; (3) explicate the intricate relationship between the extensive historical and legal commentary and the pastoral narrative; and (4) conclude with a reflection on the advantages and disadvantages of transnational literary analysis.

Orsolya Réthelyi (Eötvös Loránd University ELTE, Huygens Instituut) – “Would you be the first, who lets the light of the crescent moon / decline in the Kingdom of Hungary?” A plea for the outside perspective and a transnational approach in constructing the Literary History of the Low Countries

The Battle of Buda (1686) fought between the Holy League and Ottoman Empire, and the resulting re-conquest of the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Hungary from the Ottomans had an immense reverberation in Europe. Pamphlets and news reports were printed and widely read in a great number of languages, including Dutch. It is a less know fact that the story of the victorious battle also inspired several Dutch dramatic adaptations of the events. Govert Bidloo’s play, Het zegepraalende Oostenryk, of verovering van Offen, was performed in Amsterdam in September 1686. Jan Palensteyn, a printer from Enkhuizen wrote Buda anders Offen. Treurspel, which was published in 1686. In 1687 a further play on the samesubject was published under the title De verovering der koninghlyke stad Buda and was probably written in the Southern Low Countries. The anonymous author calls himself „Een Liefhebber der Rym-konst”, but is traditionally identified as J. van der Meulen. Two of these plays make use of the epic tradition of the siege of Troy for the construction of the plot, one of them explicitly refers to the Troades of Seneca as a chosen literary model, and the other through an imitation of the Gijsbrecht van Aemstel of Joost van den Vondel. A somewhat surprising consequence of this choice is that sympathy is created for the Ottoman defenders of Buda.

Neither plays have received scholarly attention within Dutch Studies, and are therefore at the absolute periphery of the Dutch language literary canon. It is perhaps surprising then, that they do play an important role in the Early Modern chapter of the literary history, Reflections. The History of the Literature of the Low Countries from a Hungarian Perspective, which is being written by a team of Hungarian scholars of Dutch literature for a Hungarian audience. My paper will deal with cultural and literary transfer between ‘small’ or ‘peripheric’ languages and the consequences these relations have on the writing of literary histories. In my paper, I wish to reflect on how our literary history (in progress) has integrated a specific form of transnational approach to Dutch literature, and on some of the experiences of our work concerning older literature. Why and how does the Dutch literary canon change when viewed from Hungary? How can this be represented? How does the intended public and cultural, linguistic and geopolitical proximity or distance influence the writing of literary history? These are some of the questions I wish to address through the case study of the Dutch plays about the Battle of Buda in 1686.

Yolanda Rodríguez Pérez (University of Amsterdam) – Nineteenth-Century Dutch Literary History and ‘de worstelstrijd tegen het magtige Spanje’: what to do with Spanish influences in a canon?

Nineteenth-century perspectives and ideological templates continue to mark how we perceive today the writings of the Early Modern period. Fossilized interpretations, extremely resistant to alteration, were mainly forged in this age of cultural nationalism, when national identities and literary canons consolidated the Golden Age as the key period in the national-historical consciousness. Literary historians searched for the roots of national literatures in that Golden Age as ‘the truest emblem of the national spirit and manner of existence’, to quote Thomas Carlyle. This national literature was furthermore deemed to be original and unique, and this originality left not always space for recognition of foreign influence. In the Dutch case in particular, very little space was left for the Spanish historical enemy who stood at the cradle of the creation of the Dutch founding myth. The Spaniard was the Other and embodied everything that was ‘not Dutch’.

In this way, many 19th-century literary historians like Willem De Clerq believed that the literary production of Spanish authors like playwright Lope de Vega could have never appealed to the Dutch in the 17th century since authors like him were tainted by their Catholic religion and, even worse, by the Inquisition itself. Nonetheless, we know that in the seventeenth century the Dutch Republic experienced a significant surge in translations from the Spanish, both plays and fictional prose and that the Amsterdam Theatre was deeply inspired by Spanish theatre. The fact that the Dutch and the Spanish were at war for almost eighty years did not impede literary traffic.

The above mentioned reduced conception of national literatures is in conflict with our current knowledge of literature in Early Modern Europe as transnational in essence, where the European world of letters was obviously created in a flow of exchange and cross-fertilization, with templates that could be borrowed and adjusted as deemed necessary. Part of the process of exploring and mapping literary influences and transnational exchanges implies in my view to expose the duality marked by the interaction between cultural fascination and aversion, so clearly at work in the case of Dutch-Spanish relations in general, and in the first literary histories of Dutch literature in particular. De Clerq was maybe critical of some aspects of Spanish literature in 1826, whereas Jan te Winkel was quite the opposite in 1881: ‘Wanneer het dus geldt eene verklarende geschiedenis te geven van de Nederlandsche letterkunde in het algemeen, en het Nederlandsch tooneel in het bijzonder, mag men den invloed van het Spaansch evenmin over het hoofd zien, als dien van het Latijn, den invloed van Lope de Vega evenmin als van Seneca.’

Rita Schlusemann (Utrecht University) – European Literary Bestsellers and their Agents in the First Century of Printing

In the first century of printing it is very striking that some titles of narratives rise up again and again in different European languages. Literary texts like Griseldis, Maguelone, Melusine, Quatre fils Aymon or Septem sapientum belong to the European “bestsellers” published until 1600. The novella Griseldis, for example, was originally written by Boccaccio in Italian and then translated into Latin by Petrarch. This version formed the basis for several translations and adaptations in at least 20 European different languages, the first edition in Dutch was published in 1477 by Johann of Paderborn in Dat kaetspel ghemoralizeert, based on Jan van den Berge’s manuscript version (1431). About ten years later Gheraert Leeu published the Dutch Griseldis as a singular text for the first time. Seven wise mannen van Rome, the famous story about the seven sages of Rome who rescue the king’s son against the lies of his stepmother, was first published in Latin, but from the beginning of printing, is was also published in different European vernaculars, like, for example, in Dutch and Low German by Gheraert and Niclaes Leeu, in French, English, Danish, Swedish and Polish.

My paper aims at a threefold goal. Based on my earlier research on European romances1 it will present a corpus of the most prominent European narratives published in at least six European languages until 1600. As my viewpoint in this paper is Dutch, only those narratives which were published in Dutch will be taken into consideration.² Secondly, the paper will trace different stages of the production of these narratives from the beginning of printing until 1600. Are there certain stages of their appearance in different languages and what are these stages like? What are the parallels and differences in the appearance of these texts in different European languages?

Thirdly, and very significant from a Dutch point of view, the paper will concentrate on Dutch agents of literary bestseller production. As for most Dutch printed narratives until 1600 the author is not known, printer-publishers play a very important role for the production of these texts. The Antwerp printer Jan van Doesborch, who was active in the first decades of the 16th century, is already known for his production of the same literary text in different languages, at least in Dutch and English.³ In the incunabula period Gheraert Leeu, who printed more than 200 editions, was the most important printer-publisher. He (and his brother) published several “bestseller” narratives in Dutch like Seven wise mannen (1479) and Dialogus creaturarum (1481), but he also produced Low German (Souen wisen, 1488), French (Paris et Vienne, 1487) and English (Jason, 1492) narratives and can therefore be called a European literary agent. The paper will focus on his inventive text-producing strategy, which was not limited to Latin and his “own” language, but showed a “European” dimension.


1 Rita Schlusemann, „Stages of Printed Narrative Bestsellers in Europe“ until 1600. Paper presented at the International Conference „European Narrative Literature in the Early Period of Print “, Utrecht University, November 24, 2016 (in preparation for publication).

² This implies that narratives like Fierabras, which was published at least in German, French, Spanish and Italian, will not be taken into consideration.

³ P.J.A. Franssen, Jan van Doesborch (?-1536), printer of English texts, in: Quaerendo 16 (1986), 259-280.

Alexander Soetaert (University of Leuven) – Best-sellers from the Walloon provinces A transregional view on their extraordinary popularity in early modern Europe

While studying religious books published in the Walloon provinces of the Low Countries, I was able to gather several names of early 17th-century authors whose books developed into European best-sellers. In addition to the editions printed in their home region, their writings were widely published across Catholic Europe and translated into Latin and vernacular languages such as Dutch, German, English, Italian and Spanish. Some books were issued a hundred times or more. Moreover, their appeal to both printers and readers appears to have been remarkably long-standing, stretching well into the 18th or even the 19th century. Still, in contrast to other best-selling authors of Catholic literature such as Peter Canisius and François de Sales, the names of Angelin Gazet, Marc de Bonnyers, François de La Croix, Philippe d’Outreman, Jacques Marchant or Nicolas Turlot have been almost entirely forgotten and have received little attention in modern scholarship. One can hardly find any information on their lives in historical encyclopedias or biographical dictionaries, let alone a more elaborate discussion of their well-received texts in literary histories.

One of the explanations for their undeserved absence might just be that these authors were originating from the Walloon provinces. They lived, worked and published in the Habsburg Low Countries, yet they wrote in French. By consequence, they have rightly been excluded from the histories of Dutch literature. But even if their books have been massively (re)issued in France and most of the Walloon provinces were gradually conquered by France during the 17th-century, they have neither been included in the surveys of French (religious) literature, such as Henri Bremond’s well-known Histoire du sentiment religieux en France, for instance. As a matter of fact, only an approach that transcends present-day state borders will offer a better understanding of the extraordinary successes scored by their books.

In my paper, I propose to discuss the channels through which these best-sellers conquered Europe, as well as the historical actors (printers, translators, religious orders or even the authors themselves) contributing to this process of transregional transfer. This will help to better understand and ultimately explain why exactly these books – amongst the many hundreds written and published in the Walloon provinces during the early 17th century – so easily crossed the borders of their home region and appealed to early modern Catholic readerships all over Europe.

Tom Swaak (University of Leuven) – Transnational emblem literature: a case study

There is perhaps no literary genre of early modern times that is as inherently transnational as the emblem literature. This transnationality was the result of a combination of several factors. During this lecture, the following two factors intrinsic to the emblem literature should be borne in mind1: firstly, and most obviously, the (often enigmatic) images, the picturae, used in emblem books transcend language barriers. Secondly, the multilingual subscriptiones and motti in emblem books unlocked them for an audience that extends beyond the usual boundaries. Frequently, the primary language in these multilingual emblem books was Latin, coupled with one or more vernaculars. Certainly, the use of Latin also rendered these books accessible to an international public.

This presentation focuses on the transnational reception of two multilingual emblem books from Antwerp, which have until now remained relatively devoid of scholarly attention. The first is Amoris Divini et humani effectus varii sacræ scripturæ (first published in 1626), the second is Typus mundi in quo eius calamitates et pericula nec non divini, humanique amoris antipathia (first edition 1627). Both volumes went through several editions and revisions.

Since these two books share some picturae, it is often assumed that there must have been a certain reciprocity. To what extent the one influenced the other, however, is a very hard nut to crack. After attempting to briefly map out an answer to this first problem, the main question is raised, namely what the transnational reception of these two books was like and what role the two aforementioned factors played in this process. For example, the most famous English emblem book, Quarles’ Emblemes (1635), used Typus mundi as one of its two main pictorial sources (the other being Pia desideria). The Amoris Divini et humani effectus varii went through at least five (pirated or not) editions in France – in part due to its French subscriptiones. This inquiry will reveal how our two books left fascinating traces in the Dutch, French, English, Italian and German literatures, crossing frontiers, confessions and ages.


1 The place of publication is an example of how an extrinsic factor contributes to the transnational aspect of the emblem literature. Countless examples could be given. Andrea Alciato’s founding work would be published in Augsburg, Antwerp, Lyon, Paris, Venice and Padua. The first truly English emblem book (Whitney’s A Choice of Emblems) was published in Leiden, the first emblem book written by a Spaniard (Borja’s Empresas morales) was published in Prague, etc.

Beatrijs Vanacker (University of Leuven) & Lieke van Deinsen (Rijksmuseum) – Found through translation.
Transnational ties and female authorship in the 18th-century Low Countries?

Whereas from the 19th century onwards, literary works and their authors were often inscribed in a decidedly national framework, throughout the most part of the 18th century (fictional) texts often ‘dangl[ed] between languages and cultures’ (McMurran 2009: 2). In this respect, the transcultural nature of literary production and reception also informed the ubiquity of (often very free) translations on the 18th-century Dutch book market, where translated literary works from outside the Republic quickly found a prominent place in the Dutch book production and consumption (i.e. Leemans 2009). Due to the strong focus on the romantic ideal of autonomic authorship and the original, the prominence of translation, as well as its formative nature, has so far been largely overlooked in literary historiography. And yet, the relation between the early modern original and its translation(s) was often far from clear-cut, as “translation” was a scarcely defined text practice, which could vary from fairly faithful representation of the original, to adaptations and imitations and even pseudo-translations (where the original simply did not exist). Through its fluid nature, translation practice thus provided authors with a transcultural discursive framework from which they could explore their own authorship. In many cases, translations (or pseudotranslations) – and the corresponding translator postures (Meizoz) they drew upon in the paratexts – could pave the way to a more established form of authorship. For instance, (pseudo)translations provided writers with a (para-)textual platform through which they could “negotiate” their authorship, while using the (cultural) authority of the imaginary original (author) as a prerequisite for legitimation (i.e. Vanacker 2013).

In our joint presentation, we intend to pay closer attention to the way female writers in the second half of the 18th century used translations to negotiate their authorship. As has convincingly been argued for French and English literature, because of their often marginalized social and cultural position, female writers made extensive use of transfer strategies (such as translations) to establish or consolidate intellectual and cultural authority. By focusing on, for example, the paratexts of the works of female translators (i.e. Betje Wolff, Margaretha Cambon-van der Werken and Christina Leonora de Neufville), we aim to gain insight into (1) how they portrayed their role as translators in the paratext and (2) whether these self-representations could be conducive to their so-called images d’auteur. In addition, we will also look at (3) the critical reception, as these reviews attest to the general perception of the translated works and their “authors” (e.g. were these women recognized for their translation activities and were their names linked to the translated work?).

Alisa van de Haar (University of Groningen) – Crossing Linguistic and Disciplinary Frontiers: The Rebus Poem in Dutch and French

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, members of Dutch chambers of rhetoric produced dozens of poems that play with the relationship between word and image by incorporating rebuses. They replace, for instance, the function word ‘ende’ (‘and’) by the image of a duck, a Dutch word for ‘duck’ also being ‘ende’. Dutch rhetoricians were not the first to develop the genre of the rebus poem, which was practiced all over north-west Europe in late medieval and early modern times. Nevertheless, their rebus poems surpassed those produced in other languages in both quantity and quality. This raises the question how far and in what ways Dutch rhetoricians built on experiments with rebus poems in other languages in order to take the genre to its very culmination in the late sixteenth century.

The rebus poem first seems to have surfaced in French in the late fifteenth century, in the circles of the grands rhétoriqueurs. These courtly poets, among whom Jean Molinet and Jean Marot, frequently experimented with poetic forms. They are known to have been a great source of inspiration for the Dutch rhetoricians, who lived in a multilingual region marked by both Dutch and French as local languages. The role of rebus poems in this Dutch-French interplay is still unclear. Did rhetoricians only find inspiration in the French concept of combining of rebuses with poetry, or did they adopt and adapt particular rebus practices as well? In other words, are there visual and poetic elements that can be traced from the French to the later Dutch productions? And what about the reverse process? Along the sixteenth century, the creation of rebus poems in French was at a low while they blossomed in Dutch. In the early seventeenth century, the genre again gained momentum in French. This gives rise to the same questions in the opposite direction: did the early seventeenth-century producers of French now imitate the Dutch model, which had taken the genre to a higher level of complexity?

This contribution proposes a study of rebus poems that transcends linguistic boundaries by tracing the lines of influence and exchange between the fifteenth-century French rebus poems of the grands rhétoriqueurs, the sixteenth-century examples by Dutch rhetoricians, and the early seventeenth-century French poems. Moreover, this study crosses disciplinary boundaries, as the intricate relation between text and image of the rebus poems asks for both a visual, art historical and a textual, literary analysis. This approach enables to obtain a clearer picture of the continuum that existed between the visual and literary cultures of francophone and Dutch-speaking areas and shed light on a visual literary genre that has until now remained largely in the shadows.

Lia van Gemert & Lucas van der Deijl (University of Amsterdam) – Jan Hendrik Glazemaker: Dutch ambassador of cultural transfer

Among the many translators who wrote for the lively Dutch book market of the Golden Age Jan Hendrik Glazemaker (1620-1682) was a champion. In 40 years he translated (mostly from Latin and French) at least 57 titles, for instance famous novels like Barclays Argenis (1621) and DUrfés L’Astree (1607-1627), travelogues from Marco Polo, Ricaut and Kircher, and ethics from Seneca, Erasmus, Lipsius and Montaigne. He also was the only contemporary Dutch translator who would translate the philosophical treatises of both Descartes and Spinoza. As a member of the Mennonite community in Amsterdam and a friend of the Mennonite publisher Jan Rieuwertsz. I (1617-1685), who published various radical texts, Glazemaker was closely related to a group of dissident intellectuals from Amsterdam. Through his translations he actively contributed to the dissemination of their ideas. By bringing a wide array of geographical areas, transnational genres and topics into the Low Countries and by transferring ethical and philosophical discourses of the learned elite into Dutch, Glazemaker acted as an ambassador of high brow cultural transfer. Yet, except for a few studies, he still lacks a monography or investigations on his concept of translation and transmission of ideological content, let alone his influence on the Dutch Republic of Letters.

What was his mission? Does he just convey his European models into Dutch, does he add typical Dutch layers in his translations, and is there something like a typical Glazemaker touch? In this lecture we will explore his role as ambassador in two high-brow genres: the heroic-galant novel and the philosophical treatise. It has been demonstrated that Glazemakers translations of Spinoza´s work followed the original texts closely, but it remains an open question how he coped with literary style. Furthermore, it is unclear how his idiom has changed during his active years, and if his affiliations with the radical or Mennonite circles in Amsterdam have shaped his choices when selecting and translating the sources. This lecture will address these questions by combining close and distant reading methods. In order to gain a better understanding of Glazemakers adaptation techniques, the construction of his idiom and transmission of ideologies, this lecture will first focus on the voluminous novels Argenis (1643, 1680, 1681) and Astrea (1675). Secondly, Glazemakers Spinoza translations will be compared computationally with those of another contemporary translator of Spinoza´s works, Pieter Balling (? – probably 1664). This comparison will help us to reconstruct the specific (philosophical) idiom developed by Glazemaker.

Through a selection of cases, this lecture will explore:

  • how close Glazemaker stayed to the original texts;
  • to what extent he introduced new terminology in Dutch and avoided barbarisms;
  • whether Glazemakers style mimicked that of the works he translated;
  • to what extent his idiom resonated among others, and how such interactions could be measured.

We will also use this case for exploring methodological and ideological aspects of a transnational literary history that includes the Low Countries.

Paul Wackers (Utrecht University) – Van den vos Reynaerde in nationalistic and in European perspective

One of the most iconic texts in Dutch nationalistic literary history is Van den vos Reynaerde. Ever since its discovery in the beginning of the 19th century it has been seen as a Dutch masterpiece. In the 19th century the hero of the story was also seen as the incarnation of the national identity, in Flanders the freedom fighter against the French domination, in Holland the rational, independent, modern burgher. This link with national identity no longer exists but the text is still seen in a very nationalistic, e.g. purely Dutch, perspective. A clear example of this is the fact that Stemmen op schrift (2006) contains a chapter Willem en Jacob in which a discussion of Van den vos Reynaerde is combined with a discussion of Maerlant, the two most important worldly authors in Dutch of the 13th century. Historically seen, however, this is problematical because we know that Maerlant knew Van den vos Reynaerde but we do not know that Willem knew the work of Maerlant and it is improbable that there was in the 13th century a public that knew both oeuvres. After all Van den vos Reynaerde was written for higher circles in or around Ghent and Maerlant was working for the nobility in Zeeland. And cultural circles in that century were fairly isolated. So the modern view is as constructed as the 19th century one and it is possible, and perhaps necessary, to study Van den vos Reynaerde and its successor Reynaerts historie in quite another way.

When one looks at the Middle Dutch Reynaert stories from an European perspective, it is remarkable how important the region between Paris and Ghent becomes. There were written the Ysengrimus, the father of the genre, as well as many of the branches of the Roman the Renart, and both Dutch Reynaert texts. Why is this region so important? Is there perhaps a link with the noble family of the Dampierres? We know from marginalia in Latin and French books from members of that family that they knew the Dutch Reynaert stories. And the French Renart le nouvel, as well as Reinardus vulpes, the Latin adaption of Van den vos Reynaerde, were written for members of this family. Is there a connection? And when one looks at the development of the genre in the vernacular it is remarkable that it started in the 12th century as a form of short stories (the branches of the Roman the Renart) but that it developed in the 13th century into a genre of coherent, longer stories. But the way these longer stories were composed is complete different in the Elzas (Reinhart Fuchs), in France (Renart le nouvel, Renart le contrefait) and in Flanders (Van den vos Reynaerde, Reynaerts historie). What explains these different forms? From a scholarly point of view it would be far more productive to compare Van den vos Reynaerde with Reinhart Fuchs and Renart le nouvel than with Maerlant. But this has never been done.

This paper want to show how biased the modern views on Van den vos Reynaerde are and what types of gain can be had by studying the text not from a purely Dutch but from a European perspective.

David Wallace (University of Pennsylvania) – Conceptualizing European Literary History

This presentation will trace the evolution of the project that eventually became Europe: A Literary History, 1348-1418, published in two volumes and 82 chapters by Oxford University Press in 2016.  The most urgent beginning commitment was to escape the nation-based organization of literary history, as strongly articulated in the earlier nineeteenth century, that still strongly shapes the field.  After much experiment, trial and error, we settled for an itinerary model, selecting nine sequences of places connected by links of trade, intellectual exchange, manuscript dissemination, pilgrimage, royal or imperial progress, linguistic affinity, and disease. These sometimes conform to the boundaries of modern nation states, but more often they do not: thus sequences associated with ‘Italy’ (not a unified nation state until the later nineteenth century) begin in Avignon, in Venice (heading east) and Venice (heading west); ‘England’ begins in Calais, and Mount Athos is linked to Muscovy (reflecting the huge distances travelled by Orthodox writers). Most locales associated with ‘the Low Countries’ appear in sequence IV, an itinerary associated with the movement of the Rhine and of Hanseatic trade: this sequence runs Basel, Strasbourg, Cologne, Brussels, Bruges, The Hague, Zwolle (with Deventer), Lübeck, Vadstena, Turku, and Danzig.  But other locales, such as Valenciennes (Hainault, a province of the Empire), from sequence III, must also be considered.

Following some initial research, a first outline of the project was made available as a website, with interactive pushpins; contributors were asked to provide short synopses of their chapters.  This website is still publicly accessible:


Some forty public presentations of the project were made, often followed by adjustments to the itineraries; the hardback OUP volumes are the outcome of some years of intensive collaborative effort.

I anticipate that my talk will be porous, open to questioning as we go along; my chief aim is to emphasize aspects of our project that might be useful in conceptualizing a literary history of the Low Countries.

Frank Willaert (University of Antwerp) – Lotharingia Lost. The end of a literary region in the later Middle Ages

The old kingdom, and later duchy, of Lotharingia, belongs to the losing side of not only political, but also literary history. This territory, which during the reign of his eponym Lotharius II (reigned 855-869) extended from the North Sea to the Vosges and from the river Scheldt to the Rhine, ceased to exist as a distinct political entity as early as 939. But though it crumbled into a multitude of lesser territories, it lingered on for centuries as a memory and as a dream, which was even able to repeatedly mobilise political ambitions until Charles the Bold’s untimely death before Nancy on the 5th of January 1477. Nowadays, what once was Lotharingia belongs to five independent countries, in which five official languages (French, German, Dutch, Luxemburgian and Frisian) are spoken, all of them studied in as many philologies. The construction of these „Nationalphilologien“ is, in my view, one of the main reasons why literature in medieval Lotharingia has never been studied as a whole.

In the first part of my presentation, I hope to be able to show that it does make sense to deal with medieval vernacular literature in a Lotharingian context, bydiscussing some cases taken from religious, epical and lyrical literature from the twelfth and thirteenth century. In the second part, I will try to demonstrate that this approach becomes gradually less appropriate as soon as one starts investigating literature from c. 1300 onwards. I will also try to indicate some prevailing factors which may have played a role in the gradual decomposition of Lotharingia as a distinct literary entity.