“Every civilized Dutchman who has studied modern history, even if only in general terms, knows the brave Jan Sobieski.” These words come from a book review from 1832, discussing the recent publication of the letters of Jan III Sobieski (1629-1696), in Dutch translation. The review illustrates how famous the former Polish king was in the Northern Netherlands, even more than a century after his death.
I have previously written about Sobieski’s Dutch reception in the late seventeenth century, prior to his acclaimed victory at the Battle of Vienna, in 1683. In a new publication, entitled ‘A Hero and His History. The Branding of Jan III Sobieski and His Letters in the Northern Netherlands during the Early Nineteenth Century’, I explore a related topic, venturing out of the early modern period. In the late 1820s and early 1830s, Europe saw the appearance of several editions of Sobieski’s correspondence. Three Dutch editions were published in The Hague. My publiation analyses the ways in which Sobieski and his letters were branded in these Dutch editions, particularly in the books’ extensive front matter. It argues that, while the Dutch branding was directly inspired by earlier French and Polish versions, the motives behind these different editions varied greatly, depending on their contexts. Of key importance were events related to Polish patriotism, such as the November Uprising. A number of reviews furthermore make clear how the brands in the Dutch editions were received.
My research has resulted in a book chapter, which has now appeared in H. van den Braber, J. Dera, J. Joosten and M. Steenmeijer (eds.), Branding Books Across the Ages. Strategies and Key Concepts in Literary Branding (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2021). You can find the Open Access publication on the publisher’s website.
Bezem & Kruis: De Hollandse schoonmaakcultuur of de geschiedenis van een obsessie, mijn vorig najaar verschenen vertaling van een Poolse studie van letterkundige en kunsthistoricus Piotr Oczko, krijgt mooie kritieken van onder meer de Volkskrant en het NRC Handelsblad. In de Volkskrant geeft Olaf Tempelman het boek 4 sterren. Hij typeert het als ‘een indrukwekkende studie naar de Hollandse poetszucht’ en ‘een verkapte liefdesverklaring aan een klein land aan de Noordzee.’ In het NRC is Bart Funnekotter nog positiever: 5 ballen. ‘Dit is geen lollig plaatjesboek met wat tekstjes over die malle, poetsende Hollanders,’ zo stelt hij, ‘maar een kritische, diepgravende duiding van een nationale cultuur.’ De recensies zijn respectievelijk hier en hier te lezen.
Van Wassenaer Obdam maakte zich meermaals verdienstelijk voor Gdańsk, hetgeen tot uiting komt in meerdere lofdichten die ik gevonden heb tijdens archiefonderzoek ter plaatse. De dichters benadrukken de banden tussen de admiraal (en de Nederlandse Republiek als geheel) en hun stad, alsook de spectaculaire dood van de vlootvoogd, die in 1665 omkwam tijdens de Slag bij Lowestoft. De gedichten vormen een van de vele culturele sporen van de ‘moedernegotie’ en getuigen van de verwevenheid van de belangen van de Republiek en Gdańsk in de zeventiende eeuw.
Santa gave me a particularly lovely Christmas present this year: a freshly published peer-reviewed publication! It is entitled ‘Better than Pindar? The Ode by Sidronius Hosschius to Sarbievius and Its Two Versions’ and is published in Terminus, a journal for Neolatin studies, in an issue devoted to “the Sarmatian (i.e. Polish) Horace”, Mathias Casimirus Sarbievius (Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski, 1595–1640). My paper contributes to our knowledge of the international fame Sarbievius’s poetry enjoyed in the Early Modern age.
The main aim of the paper is to present and analyse an ode by the Flemish Jesuit Sidronius Hosschius (Sidronius [or Syderoen] de Hossche, 1596–1653) to Sarbievius. This eulogy has often been viewed as a masterpiece. In addition, it has two distinct versions: one published in a collection of poems in honour of Sarbievius (the so-called Epicitharisma), first printed in an edition of his oeuvre in 1632, and one in the collective volume of Hosschius’s own works issued posthumously in 1656. Both versions were first published by the famous Plantin-Moretus printing house in Antwerp. I have previously written two other papers, also dealing with poems to Sarbievius, composed by the Frenchman Gilbertus Joninus and the Fleming Jacobus Wallius.
The paper consists of three sections. The first one focuses on the relationship between Hosschius and Sarbievius and on the Nachleben of Hosschius’s ode. The second section offers a general analysis of the poem. Tracing the contents of Hosschius’s ode and its sources of inspiration, it argues that Hor. Carm. IV 2 is central to the poem’s understanding. The third section discusses the differences between the two versions, in an attempt to disclose why the poem was altered and how the changes influence the ode’s meaning. A number of larger changes affect the poem’s central message: while in the earlier version Sarbievius is said to outdo Pindar and even Horace, the later version is more cautious. All it does is admit that Sarbievius could perhaps equal Pindar and Orpheus.
Hosschius’s eulogy and the reception of Sarbievius through his composition have two different traditions: 1) the one found in most editions of Sarbievius’s works, where the poem basically proclaims him to be the best Latin lyricist of all time, thereby tying in with other laudatory contributions and promoting both Sarbievius’s oeuvre and the editions themselves, and 2) the one added to Hosschius’s own poetry, where the adjusted version—which contains more references to ancient literature and which could be called more personal, as well as, perhaps, more realistic—became a fan favourite.
In both instances, however, the reinterpretation of the psychological effect of poetry—the translation of furor poeticus from the author to the reader—and the re-evaluation of the concept of aemulatio could be the main reason why Hosschius’s ode was so highly valued.
Onlangs verscheen in Vilnius de dichtbundel Samotność (Eenzaamheid) van de Poolse dichter Sławomir Worotyński (1942-1983). De bundel bevat vijf van zijn gedichten, in zowel het originele Pools als in zes andere talen: Litouws, Russisch, Noors, Grieks, Italiaans en Nederlands. Ik mocht de Nederlandse vertalingen voor mijn rekening nemen.
De bundel is het eerste deel in een nieuwe serie uitgaves, getiteld Ścieżkami wileńskiego słowa/Vilniškio žodžio takais (Over de paden van het Vilnische woord), die als doel heeft meer aandacht te genereren voor de banden tussen Poolse en Litouwse literatuur. Hoewel Worotyński namelijk schreef in het Pools, werd hij geboren in het huidige Litouwen en debuteerde hij in een tijdschrift uit Vilnius.
De volledige titelgegevens van de bundel luiden: Sławomir Worotyński/Славомир Воротынский/Σλαβομιρ Βοροτινσκι, Samotność/Vienatvė/Одиночество/Ensomhet/Μοναξιά/Solitudine/Eenzaamheid, Paweł Krupka and Viktoras Tamošiūnas (eds.) (Vilnius: Krajowe Stowarzyszenie Literatów Polskich/Respublikinė lenkų rašytojų draugija 2020).
Deze maand verscheen bij de Primavera Pers in Leiden het boek Bezem & Kruis: De Hollandse schoonmaakcultuur of de geschiedenis van een obsessie, mijn vertaling van Miotła i krzyż: Kultura sprzątania w dawnej Holandii, albo historia pewnej obsesji. Het boek is geschreven door de Poolse letterkundige en kunsthistoricus Piotr Oczko, die is verbonden aan de Uniwersytet Jagielloński in Krakau.
Het rijk geïllustreerde werk vormt een studie van de Hollandse schoonmaak- cultuur door de eeuwen heen. Aan de hand van talrijke voorbeelden laat Oczko zien hoe het schoonmaken vanaf de zeventiende eeuw een belangrijke rol ging spelen in de kunst en literatuur van de Noordelijke Nederlanden, met name Holland. In binnen- en buitenland begon men schoonmaken en properheid te associëren met de Nederlandse cultuur en identiteit. Deze ‘obsessie’ met schoonmaken duurde voort tot in de twintigste eeuw.
I am happy to announce a new peer-reviewed paper, entitled ‘De Poolse Hercules. Romeyn de Hooghe en de Nederlandse receptie van Jan III Sobieski voorafgaand aan het Ontzet van Wenen’ (The Polish Hercules. Romeyn de Hooghe and the Dutch reception of John III Sobieski before the Battle of Vienna), published in Neerlandica Wratislaviensia.
The paper explores the Dutch perceptions of the Polish king John III Sobieski before his famous victory over the Turks at the 1683 Battle of Vienna. Sobieski’s military triumphs and rise to power in the 1670s elicited various favourable responses from the Dutch Republic, most notably several prints by the etcher and engraver Romeyn de Hooghe. His prints laid the foundation for Sobieski’s image as a great European and Christian military leader, but also a specifically Polish and Catholic hero. Sobieski’s war efforts and the image formed of him by De Hooghe cohered with the negative Dutch perceptions of the Turks, as well as with Poland-Lithuania’s reputation as a bulwark of Christendom. The countless glorifying prints, poems and other European responses to Sobieski after his victory at Vienna were in many cases inspired by the image of the Polish monarch created in the Northern Netherlands during the 1670s.
The paper is in Dutch. An English version will be included in my dissertation.
I am very excited to have published a new peer-reviewed article, in Legatio: The Journal for Renaissance and Early Modern Diplomatic Studies, entitled ‘Diplomats as Poets, Poets as Diplomats: Poetic Gifts and Literary Reflections on the Dutch Mediations between Poland-Lithuania and Sweden in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century’.
The article examines two Dutch diplomatic missions, in 1627-28 and 1635, by which the United Provinces intervened in a Polish-Swedish armed conflict in Prussia. The focus is on ‘diplomatic poetics’: the ways in which literature functioned within diplomatic practice, and how that practice (or the ‘diplomatic moment’) was in turn envisioned in literature. The Polish-Swedish conflict was of great interest to the United Provinces, and was elaborately discussed in various Dutch media, as well as in the correspondences of merchants and politicians. The Dutch embassies to Polish territories themselves, meanwhile, inspired a number of literary works, published mostly in the Republic, but also in for example Danzig and Königsberg. These sources demonstrate how early modern literary and diplomatic practices in Europe overlapped and influenced each other. Firstly, German, French and Dutch poems by Johannes Plavius, Simon van Beaumont and Joost van den Vondel illustrate the blurring of the lines between the realms of diplomacy and literature. Poems could function as diplomatic gifts, enabling both personal, intellectual communication and the widespread transmission of political messages. Moreover, Latin and German plays by Johannes Narssius and Simon Dach, and more importantly Latin poems by Simon van Beaumont and Caspar Barlaeus, as well as an illustrated Dutch account of the first mission by Abraham Booth, reveal that the Dutch envoys featured in literary narratives as both wise peace bringers and travelling poets, and their missions to Poland as both arduous ordeals and epic adventures. Much like poetic gifts, these literary reflections on ‘the diplomatic moment’ had public diplomatic agency, simultaneously voicing political opinions and crafting artistic images of the diplomats themselves.
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. For the aptly named website Over de Muur (‘Over/Concerning the Wall’), I wrote a piece on the wall that still divides Europe today: the mental wall between East and West. I argue that ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western Europe’ are merely concepts or frames, which do not reflect a geographic reality. Rather, they serve as catch-alls of various images and stereotypes, which hardly do justice to the complex relations between East and West, or to the differences within East and West themselves.
In addition, I explain how the divide is kept alive by western historians, for whom ‘European history’ often means ‘Western European history’. Countries like Hungary, Poland and Ukraine are regularly overlooked by western scholarship, partly because historians seldom know the languages required. Instead, they often make use of publications written in for example English or German, which tend to neglect the East and/or give an unflattering view of Eastern European history.
I state that historians can overcome these difficulties by being aware of the fact that ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western Europe’ are frames, which are furthermore anachronistic when discussing the period before the Enlightenment, as that is when these concepts first came into use. In addition, scholars can visit eastern conferences, or invite speakers from Eastern Europe. But most importantly, they can try to incorporate the lands east of Germany into their research and their classes. This will help to gain a better understanding of Europe’s history as a whole, and thus to tear down the mental wall dividing the continent.
The piece was also posted on Radboud Recharge, in both Dutch and English.
Romeyn de Hooghe, Sobieski conquers the Turkish standard, 1683
On 12 September 1683, the Polish king Jan III Sobieski led a Christian coalition army to a glorious victory at the Battle of Vienna, defeating the Turkish troops which had laid siege to the city. In recent years, this event has started to play a significant role in right-wing, islamophobic rhetoric. In a piece I wrote for Over de Muur, I disclose how far-right terrorists such as Anders Breivik, as well as Dutch right-wing politicians such as Geert Wilders and Frits Bolkestein, appropriate the Battle of Vienna in their speeches and manifestos. I argue that this appropriation manipulates history, as it falsely implies that Europe in 1683 was on the brink of ‘islamification’. Moreover, I explain that this kind of rhetoric stems directly from the ideas expressed by Samuel Huntington, who in the 1990s launched the notion of the so-called ‘clash of civilizations’, and how it strengthens a dangerous islamophobic worldview, in which there appears to be an ongoing struggle between Christendom and Islam, which are presented as irreconcilable forces of Good and Evil.