Dutch literature

From Academic Kids

This article deals with the forms of literature written in the Dutch language. Just as English literature is not restricted to England alone, Dutch-language authors do not necessarily have to be from the Netherlands, as Dutch literature is or was also produced in other (formerly) Dutch-speaking regions: Belgium, Surinam, the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, the former Dutch East Indies (as of 1949 the republic of Indonesia).

In its earliest stages, Dutch literature is defined as those pieces of literary merit written in one of the Dutch dialects. Before the seventeenth century, there was no unified standard language; the dialects that are considered Dutch (as opposed to Low German) are thought to have diverged from Low Franconian around the eighth century.


Earliest stages (800–1550)

For the earliest stages of the Dutch language (and so its literature), the boundaries with what is now considered German are vague and some fragments and authors are claimed for both realms. Examples include the ninth-century Wachtendonk Psalms, a West Low Franconian translation of some of the Psalms on the threshold of what is considered Dutch, and the twelfth-century Loon poet Henric van Veldeke, an early contemporary of Walther von der Vogelweide who is claimed by both Dutch and German literature (the Germans call him Heinrich von Veldeke).

Missing image
Reproduction of the "Hebban olla vogala" fragment (click to enlarge).
The earliest literature to be indisputably considered Dutch is a two-line lyric poetry fragment written down by an anonymous tenth-century West Flemish monk to try his pen:
Hebban olla vogala nestas hagunnan hinase hic
Enda thu wat unbidan we nu
All birds have started nests except me
and you — what are we waiting for?

In the Low Countries as in the rest of Europe, courtly romance and poetry were popular genres during the Middle Ages. One such Minnesanger was the aforementioned Van Veldeke. The chivalric epic was a popular genre as well, often featuring King Arthur or Charlemagne (Karel ende Elegast, "Charlemagne and Elegast") as protagonist.

Literary prose was hardly written during this era as prose was the domain of "serious" occupations such as history and theology. Drama, on the other hand, flourished both at the low (farce) and high level. Theatre was seen by the church as a means of edifying people and so mystery plays (Mariken van Nieumeghen, "Mary of Nijmegen") and morality plays (Peter van Diest's Elckerlijc, "Everyman") abounded.

A number of the surviving works, especially the courtly romances, were copies from or expansions of earlier German or French efforts, but there are examples of truly original works (such as Karel ende Elegast) or even Dutch-language works that formed the basis for version in other languages (Elckerlijc formed the basis for Everyman).

Authors and works of importance

The Golden Age (1550–1650)

Vondel, P.C. Hooft (also his Histories), Bredero, Jacob Cats, Muiderkring, Statenvertaling, Vonderslag

Decline and the French Era (1650–1815)

Van Alphen, Wolff en Deken French era -> spelling reform of Siegenbeek and counter-reaction by Bilderdyk

The Old Guard (1815–1880)

Dominees, Beets/Hildebrand, Potgieter, Piet Paaltjens, Schoolmeester, Bilderdyk, Conscience, Gezelle, Multatuli

Tachtigers (1880–1920)

Willem Kloos, Frederik van Eeden, Herman Gorter, Lodewijk van Deyssel, Louis Couperus; The New Guide

Interbellum and the Second World War (1920–1945)

Modern Times (1945–present)

Vijftigers, Lodeizen, Lucebert, Deelder, Brusselmans, Bernlef, Remco Campert, Grunberg, Mulisch, WFH, Reve, Lanoye

See also: List of Dutch writers nl:Nederlandse literatuur


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