21 July 2016
Going Dutch: Literary reflections of the Low Countries in the 19th and 20th Century
With its great treasure of visual arts and architecture, it is often overlooked that the Netherlands and Belgium also have a rich heritage and thriving presence in literary fields of expression. All of this is directly linked to the history of Western civilisation and European culture. The course invites students to explore the history of the Netherlands and Belgium guided by literary texts reaching back to the 17th century and moving to the 20th century (using English translations). From the fight for independence against Spanish oppression into the Golden Age of Dutch and Flemish culture when the Netherlands became a European superpower, through the changes coming into being through industrialisation in the 19th century, on into the 20th century with Modernism, Fascism, the German occupation in World War II and the ensuing times of the Cold War. The selected texts for this class, written by leading Dutch and Flemish authors and recognised as being part of World Literature, provide an authentic view of the history and culture of the ‘low countries’ within the European context. In the art of writing, the unique characteristics of the Netherlands and Belgium and their inhabitants are reflected within the process of Western civilization, often with an ingenious combination of realistic depiction with fantastic, even grotesque elements. Starting with Vondel and his dramatised discussion of cultural and religious struggles in the 17th century, followed by a portrait of Holland in the 19th century, the literary journey will reach the realms of decadence at the turn of the century highlighted by a field trip to Bruges, which will provide first-hand experience of this famously romantic northern Venetian counterpart. The turbulent events of the 20th century and the effect they had on the ‘low countries’ will then be explored from Dutch and Flemish perspectives, including comic book-art, a movie viewing, the depiction of the Maastricht region in fiction and vice versa views from the United States with Williams Carlos Williams and Joseph Heller. Artistic concepts and writing styles from Symbolism to Post-modernism will be central elements of the class discussion, together with the continuing presence of the Dutch and Flemish past.
The aim of this course is to provide a genuine European experience, in literature and on site, using Maastricht and the Netherlands as the starting point. Students will receive a thorough introduction to Dutch and Flemish culture within the context of Western civilisation. A chosen collection of literary examples, including other media and an excursion, will provide the material to discuss artistic movements, political and social history as well as philosophical and cultural ideas. Students will learn about methods of literary criticism and gain experience in analysing fictional texts as well as learning more about the Netherlands and Belgium.
EUR 900: Course fee