Netherlandish Literature

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Netherlandish Literature


the literature of the Hollanders and the Flemings, written in Netherlandic, that developed in the historical region known as the Netherlands. After the political separation of the region it flourished in the areas today known as Belgium and the Netherlands.

The oldest example of Netherlandish literature is the ninth-century work known as the Carolingian Psalms. A leading representative of the courtly style was Henric van Veldeke (born between 1140 and 1150; died c. 1200 or 1210), whose work is often regarded as part of German literature. Didactic burgher literature flourished from the second half of the 13th century. Such works were written by J. van Maerlant (c. 1235–1300), J. van Boendale (c. 1280–1365), the author of Laymen’s Mirror (1325–30), and J. de Weert (died c. 1362), who condemned contemporary morals and manners in his Mirror of Sins (c. 1350). Feudal customs were criticized in folk songs and in the animal epic “Reynard the Fox” (c. 1235–50). Religious literature developed in the form of miracle, mystery, and morality plays, of which the best example is Everyman (1495) by P. van Doorlant (1454–1507). The poems of Hadewijch (c. 1200–69) also dealt with religious themes. The work of the mystic J. van Ruysbroeck (1293–1381) was directed against the church hierarchy and played an important role in preparing for the Reformation.

The second half of the 14th century saw the rise of the abele spelen, an early form of secular drama in Western European literature. Among the best abele spelen are the anonymous plays Esmoreit and Lancelot. From the 14th to the 16th centuries national culture flourished in the chambers of rhetoricians (rederijkers), where burghers met to write poetry and take part in theatrical presentations. The festivals of rederijkers at Ghent in 1539 are known to have been rebellious. The theorist of the art of the rederijkers was M. de Castelein (1485–1550), the author of the treatise The Art of Rhetoric (1548). The activities of the rederijkers contributed to the flowering of national drama and poetry and played a significant role in preparing the way for the Reformation and the bourgeois revolution. The poet Anna Bijns (1493–1575) opposed the Reformation. The outlook of the common people was reflected in didactic stories and poems called spròke and in fabliaux.

Renaissance elements, already present in the work of D. Potter (c. 1370–1428), may be clearly discerned in 16th-century Netherlandish literature. The Dutch Renaissance produced the world-famous writer and thinker Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469–1536). J. van der Noot (1540-c. 1595) introduced new poetic genres and verse forms, such as the ode, sonnet, and Alexandrine verse. P. Marnix van St. Aldegonde (1540–98) wrote satires against the Catholic Church. The humanists D. V. Coornhert (1522–90), H. Spiegel (1549–1612), and K. van Mander (1548–1606), the author of Schilderboeck (1604), played a major role in the development of Netherlandish prose. The poetry and prose of R. Vissher (1547–1620) reveals the influence of folk literature. The folk poetry and songs of the “beggars” (gueux) became popular in the 16th century during the Netherlands Bourgeois Revolution.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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135, on French and Netherlandish literature in the Georgic tradition.
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