Dutch Literature Part I

Dutch Literature 1

Dutch literature, collective term for the literary works in the Dutch language, d. H. the vernacular literature in the Netherlands and Flanders.

Detailed information on Flemish literature: Belgian literature.

Middle Dutch literature

The written tradition only begins at the end of the 12th century with H. von Veldeke . The knight epic was primarily characteristic of the 13th century; The Carolingian stories (Karel ende Elegast) and the Arthurian novel (»Whale wine«, »Ferguut«) were popular. Spiritual literature also flourished. The mystical poems (“Strofische Gedichten”) of the Brabant Begine Hadewijch (mid-13th century), who also wrote visions and letters in excellent prose, are of particular importance. Beatrijs van Nazareth (* 1200, † 1268) is also important for women’s mysticism. A highlight of the art of storytelling of the 13th century is the animal poem “Vanden vos Reynaerde” (Reinecke Fuchs).

During the 14th century the most important impulses for spiritual literature came from the movement of the Devotio moderna (G. Groote, J. van Ruusbroec). Important narrative texts are the anonymously transmitted »Die borchgravinne van Vergi« (1315) and the legend of Mary »Beatrijs« (1374). The secular drama begins with the Abele Spelen (approx. 1350).

Didactic and encyclopedic literature was produced throughout the Middle Ages; the most important representatives are J. van Maerlant, Jan van Boendale (* 1279, † between 1343 and 1350) and Dirc Potter (* approx. 1370, † 1428; »Der minnen loep«).

Rederijkers and Reformation

The period between 1450 and 1570 is seen as an independent period in Dutch literature. It was shaped by the so-called Rederijkers. In addition to her v. a. also refrain and rondeau (ring poem) nurturing lyric poetry, they created important dramas and spiritual games (morality) such as »Elckerlijk« (approx. 1500, Jedermann) and miracle games such as Mariken von Nijmegen (approx. 1515).

The Reformation found its expression in various literary genres. The work of the Antwerp poet Anna Bijns gained importance in poetry. The “Geusenlieder” (Geusen), in which the uprising against Spain is glorified, are also characteristic. In the prose v. a. the satire of P. van Marnix against the Catholic Church long after.

Renaissance, Baroque, Classicism and Enlightenment

The early Renaissance was under French influence, v. a. the Pléiade, so z. B. with J. B. van der Noot and Lucas de Heere (* 1534, † 1584). The war against Spain led to the division into the northern and southern Netherlands after the fall of Antwerp (1585). The greater part of the cultural upper class of the south then emigrated, mostly to Holland, where Renaissance literature reached a high point in the “Golden Age” (first half of the 17th century). The most famous poets include: the poet and tragedy writer P. C. Hooft, the writer of comedies G. A. Bredero and the poet C. Huygens. In Germany, in addition to the Leiden university professor D. Heinsius v. a. the playwright J. v. d. Vondel and the emblematic and moralist J. Cats wereinfluential. J. Revius, Dirk Raphaelsz Camphuysen (* 1586, † 1627) and Jeremias de Decker (* 1609, † 1666) wrote sacred poetry based on Calvinist values.

From the second half of the 17th century, French classicism (Corneille, Racine) became a model, promoted by literary societies such as the »Nil Volentibus Arduum«, founded in 1669. The most important tragedy poets were L. Rotgans and B. Huydecoper; P. Langendijk was successful as a comedy poet. Important poets of the period were J. Luyken and Hubert Kornelisz. Poot (* 1689, † 1733).

Enlightenment positions were disseminated in moral weekly papers based on the English model from around 1720. The main representative of this genre was Justus van Effen (* 1684, † 1735) with »De Hollandsche Spectator« (1731–35). In the southern Netherlands – in the tradition of Petrarch  - Justus de Harduwyn (* 1582, † 1636), the theater poet Guilliam van Nieuwelandt (* 1585, † 1635), the moralist A. Poirters and the spiritual author Michiel de Swaen (* 1654, † 1707) the vernacular literature in the 17th century.


According to franciscogardening, the romanticism movement, which was less pronounced in the Netherlands, led to an appreciation of prose literature in the last decades of the 18th century. Rhijnvis Feith (* 1753, † 1824; »Julia«, 1783), E. Wolff-Bekker (letter novel »Sara Burgerhart«, 1782) and A. Deken received great attention. By Hieronymus van Alphen, Jacobus Bellamy and W. Bilderdijk renewed impetus for poetry.

During the 19th century, the national trend of Romanticism was particularly expressed in the historical novel, both in the northern (H. Tollens; J. van Lennep; Anna Louise Geertruida Bosboom-Toussaint, * 1812, † 1886) and in the southern Netherlands (H. Conscience). “Camera obscura” by N. Beets is characteristic of the cult of humor in the 19th century. Literary criticism came to maturity in the writings of E. J. Potgieter, the founder of the magazine “De Gids” (1837), and Conrad Busken-Huet (* 1826, † 1886).

Relatively lonely in the midst of their peers, the two most important authors of the 19th century are distinguished by their literary quality: the politically committed Northern Dutchman Multatuli (“Max Havelaar”, 1860) and the Flemish priest and poet G. P. Gezelle.

Dutch Literature 1