ALCS Essay Prizes 2021

Congratulations to the winners of the ALCS Essay Prize 2021!

Postgraduate/Early Career Prize

Irving Wolters (UCL)
Irving Wolters (UCL)

Bibliotheca Neerlandica

The winner of the Postgraduate/Early Career Prize is Irving Wolters from UCL, with his essay ‘Genesis of the Canon of Dutch Literature: The Bibliotheca Neerlandica?’

Although the canon of Dutch literature was not officially digitalized until 2002, this paper presents a view that a Dutch initiative in the 1950s and 60s may have been a genesis of canon building through translation sixty years ahead of its time.In the 1950s the Dutch government established an organisation called the Stichting ter Bevordering van de Vertaling van Nederlands Letterkundig Werk. This foundation was served by a commissioning body whose role it was to consider and select titles available to them from the Netherlands and Flanders. Irvin uses minutes of the commissioning body’s meetings obtained from the Letterkundig Museum in The Hague to research this. 

This year there were two winners of the Undergraduate Prize: Megan Strutt from the University of Sheffield and Anna Mihlic from UCL.

Megan Strutt (Sheffield)
Megan Strutt (Sheffield)

Guus Kuijer

In Megan’s essay, ‘Emancipation, Power and Religion in Guus Kuijer’s Het boek van alle dingen’, we see the tensions between tradition and modernity in the Orthodox-Protestant family of Kuijer’s nine-year-old protagonist, Thomas Klopper. Although the typical 1950’s family is often referred to as exemplary of ‘family values’, with women perceived as “mothers and homemakers”,  there were also discernible murmurings of women’s liberation at the time; hints of the second wave of feminism that was to emerge in the sixties.

Kuijer’s text explores the effects of a changing societal mood on Thomas’s fundamentally religious family, and Megan’s paper considers how this is represented through the relationship between the themes of emancipation and power.

Language Attitudes in Wallonia

Anna Mihlic (UCL)
Anna Mihlic (UCL)

In Anna’s essay, ‘Language Attitudes in Wallonia towards English and Dutch’, we see how languages in Belgium have an important symbolic value, which is linked to the social, economic, political and cultural history of the country and to the contemporary division into different regions. In this paper she explores the attitudes towards and the values associated with Dutch and English as foreign languages among university students in the French-speaking part of Belgium.

Reflecting on previous literature, Anna’s research examines the following questions: How do language attitudes towards Dutch and English differ in Wallonia? What are the implicit and explicit attitudes towards the two languages and to what extent do these differ?

Catholic Print in the Dutch Republic: A Low Countries Enterprise

Elise WatsonElise Watson, PhD Candidate University of St Andrews, received an ALCS grant to visit a number of archives in Antwerp. She reports on her research.

“In March 2020, I set out on a tour of Dutch archives in order to study a group of people whose activities outside of home and in public spaces were increasingly restricted, leading to the development of a wide variety of media to be consumed at home, made in order to take the place of public activities that were no longer possible. Sound familiar?

While this connection may be tenuous, COVID-19 has not stopped me from pursuing my doctoral thesis, researching printing for the Roman Catholic community in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. In this period, Catholics made up a substantial proportion of the population in the Northern Netherlands, but were forced to subsist in the margins, as any form of public worship was banned and they were disallowed from holding public office or using public funds.

However, they maintained a robust print culture, either printing or importing everything the community needed, from single-sheet devotional prints to Vulgate Bibles. My project aims to document how the Catholic community obtained and used this print, and how it impacted their experience as a religious subculture. As much of the Catholic print in the North was imported from the Southern Netherlands, and many residents of the Dutch Republic still saw themselves as part of a unified Belgium, this is very much a project that involves the Low Countries as a whole.

My research has taken me both to archives and libraries. Last year, I received generous funding from the ALCS to visit several archives in Antwerp in order to investigate the trade in Catholic books between the Northern and Southern Netherlands. Though COVID-19 forced me to cancel my trip halfway through, I have been able to continue this research thanks to the digitisation projects carried out at institutions like the Plantin-Moretus Museum and the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library, and the advice of archivists and librarians who have been extremely generous with their time and resources.

Rekening-courant van Catharina Maria Kiel voor Balthasar II Moretus
Rekening-courant van Catharina Maria Kiel voor Balthasar II Moretus

These digital investigations have already yielded fascinating results. The personal and familial relationships between printers and booksellers in Antwerp and the Dutch Republic, especially Amsterdam, have long been known to be strong. Members of the trade collaborated, corresponded, loaned each other money, and set up their children to marry to ensure the union of their dynasties. Records from the archives at the Plantin-Moretus Museum have shown that their professional relationships, too, were fruitful. Receipts and ledgers inform us that thousands of Catholic books were imported from Antwerp to every province in the Dutch Republic, and Dutch books were even sent back to be resold in Antwerp. A remarkable number of female printers and booksellers, like Catharina Kiel (shown here), participated in this family trade as well.

While I very much look forward to seeing this material in person, it is remarkable what kinds of research ambitious digitisation has made possible. Researchers owe a great debt to the work of archivists and librarians, for their guidance and diligence in ensuring this kind of inquiry can still take place during a pandemic. I owe many thanks, too, to the ALCS for their generous support of my research at such a turbulent time, and look forward to sharing more of my findings in the future!”

Image courtesy of the Museum Plantin-Moretus and the City of Antwerp.

Dutch for Advanced Learners – new MOOC

nederlands-voor-gevorderde-anderstaligen_met-logo-ntuThis new interactive course for advanced learners of Dutch is based on videos by Dutch and Flemish academics on topics ranging from psychology, linguistics and economics to ecology and biology. It was developed by four international Dutch scholars – including our very own ALCS Chair! –  with the generous support of the Nederlandse Taalunie and addresses a gap in the market for this specific level (CEFR B2+). 

  • The course is freely available on-line.
  • It is built around twelve online talks by Universiteit van Nederland and Vlaanderen
  • Attention is paid to language variation, including Dutch and Belgian Dutch. 
  • Learners practise listening and understanding skills as well as vocabulary interactively in the online learning environment, and develop a better understanding of language in use, and language variation. 
  • Tutors can offer this course as a self-study course (all exercises are self-correcting), or embed it into a face-to-face or online course using a blended approach. 
  • In order to work more on productive language skills, ready-made speaking and writing tasks are free to download for teachers on Mijn NVT (Nederlandse Taalunie). Ideal for the flipped classroom!

“Nederlands voor gevorderde anderstaligen” was developed with the support of the Nederlandse Taalunie by Sofie Royeaerd (Masaryk Universiteit Brno), Truus De Wilde (Freie Universität Berlin), Christine Sas (University College London) and Esther Ham (Indiana University Bloomington).

Why wait? Enrol now here.

City Lights: Urban Space and Civic Identity in the Low Countries and Beyond, 8-9 July 2021

The Association for Low Countries Studies are delighted to announce our third postgraduate colloquium, “City Lights”, which takes place online on 8-9 July 2021.

The colloquium brings together young scholars from the UK and internationally to explore urban space and civic identity in Benelux from an interdisciplinary perspective. Registration is free of charge via Eventbrite.

The Low Countries is one of the world’s most urbanised regions. Since the Middle Ages, advances in mercantilism, industry and land reclamation had spurred Bruges, Antwerp and Amsterdam toward exponential growth. Meanwhile, claims to political autonomy and religious freedom caused tension with the powers that be, erupting most violently during the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648). Today, many Netherlandish cities retain a unique sense of identity, manifested in dialects, local legends and civic buildings.

The diverse and wide-ranging programme features panels on sense and the city, the early modern book trade, the built environment, urban politics and modern times. Day two will include a virtual “show and tell” event showcasing Dutch language collections in the Universal Short Title Catalogue and the British Library. To conclude, we look forward to welcoming our keynote, Elisabeth de Bièvre, author of Dutch Art and Urban Cultures, 1200-1700 (Yale University Press, 2015).

Full conference programme also on the Eventbrite site