In 2018 Atlas Contact published my monograph on one of the major pieces of Dutch industrial and cultural heritage: the Daf car, produced in the south of the Netherlands between 1958 and 1976. Following the traces that this car left in culture (books, movies, comics, advertising, etc.) I try to shed a different light on the modernization of the Netherlands in the postwar period. Post-war history has been written by eyewitnesses, whose narratives about the recent past are often colored by their belief in the rightness and necessity of the ‘revolution’ or ‘breakthrough’ their generation realized. Despite the relatively short period at issue, strong historical changes are being claimed. Hence, official history, that emphasizes the role of the people at the forefront of modernization, is marked by a certain heroism. The image is dominated by narratives from and about ‘avant-garde' perceptions: the ‘Provos’ as breakers of rotten culture patterns, the ‘Dolle Minas’ as liberators of women, the ‘Maagdenhuis Occupants’ as abolitionists of an undemocratic higher education system, the poets of the ‘Vijftigers’-movement as executioners of the beauty that burned its face in World War II... The young historiography of the postwar period in the Netherlands reads as a series of claims about the ‘ownership’ of major social and cultural changes. The heroic and highly canonical narratives, that are currently being told, raise the question of the real importance of the self-proclaimed precursors in the modernization of the Netherlands. What about the underlying developments of the changes that these groups have become the figureheads of? What about common people: how did they experience modernization and its effects? In Daf and the modernization of the Netherlands I try to answer questions like these. Daf’s cultural traces lead us to Deurne and Born instead of Amsterdam, to an amateur circus instead of the poets of the ‘Fiftiers’ movement, to Moroccan miners instead of Dutch intellectuals… In this light, Daf turns out to be a strong icon for modernization, or for the Sixties – just as strong as for example Provo’s ‘white bikes’ or the ‘happening’, but quite different.
Geschiedenis van de moderne Nederlandse literatuur is an attempt to de-essentialize the central concepts of literary history. Romanticism, realism, avant-garde, modernism, and postmodernism are being reconceptualized as discursive frames that direct the interpretation of texts. Contrary to the existing textbooks in Dutch literary history the book does not focus on labeling or periodization. Instead, it provides a literary-historical method that is based on discourse analysis. It shows how different frames reveal different textual signals (metaphors, binary oppositions) and different critical perspectives on modernity within the same text. Hence, it focuses on the dynamics of literary heritage, not on the fixation of the canon.
Together with one of my colleagues at the University of Amsterdam, Yra van Dijk, I edited the volume Reconsidering the Postmodern: European Literature Beyond Relativism . The idea behind the book was simple: now that we have reached the point in which historical postmodernism, rightly or wrongly, has been declared defunct, it is time to critically evaluate itsliterary legacy. What has been the effect of historical postmodernism? Have we gone beyond it in literature, and why would we want to go beyond it? What criticisms have been leveled against it in the last decennia by writers and critics? What have they put in its place? To what extent do they rely for this on (conceptions of) literature that historical postmodernism had consigned to history?
My monograph De revanche van de roman; literatuur, autoriteit en engagement [The Revenge of the Novel; Literature, Legitimacy, and Commitment] was published by Uitgeverij Vantilt in 2009. The book, that turned out to be one of the most talked-of scholarly publications in Dutch literature ever (more than 50 reviews, a stir in Dutch literary journalism, reprints in 2010 and 2011), is about what I call late postmodernism (as in: historical postmodernism) and the novel. I describe historical postmodernism as a medicine against the liberal humanist conception of culture, a medicine that, in the course of the eighties and ninetieths appeared to have unpleasant side effects, such as relativism, cynicism, noncommittal irony. I try to explain the tendency towards engagement in Dutch novels, not as a late in the day rejection of historical postmodernism, but as a late postmodern reaction to these side effects.
In 2009 Amsterdam University Press published the anthology Women's Writing from the Low Countries 1880-2010 t hat I edited with my colleague at the VU Amsterdam, Jacqueline Bel. This anthology offers English-speaking readers a chance to become acquainted with the leading Dutch and Flemish women writers since the 1880s. The book covers a representative range of public and private genres, from poetry, critical essays, travel literature, and political commentary to diaries and journals.
My book Ongerijmd succes; poëzie in een onpoëtische tijd [Remarkable Success; Poetry in an Unpoetic Age], published by Uitgeverij Vantilt in 2006, is about contemporary poetryand about poets crossing the borders of poetry as we know it. One of the keywords for the contemporary poetry scene is intermediality: we see performance, poetry on the Web, poetry in art or even in public space. Where my other books are mostly focused on literary text and discourse, this one is more sociologically focused. It was published a few months after my appointment as a full professor at the University of Amsterdam and it marked, in a way, my formal leave as a journalistic literary critic (due to increased busyness I had to stop with my non-academic side activities). However, for some of my esteemed positivistic colleagues it may well be my most 'academic' book, because of the sociology and the statistics in it...
When I was appointed as a professor at the University of Amsterdam in 2005 I held my inaugural lecture Het boek was beter; literatuur tussen autonomie en massificatie [The Book Was Better; Literature Between Autonomy and Massification]. By tradition, Amsterdam University Press published an extended version of the lecture. The small book is about the cultural transformations in the second half of the 20 th century that changed our perception of literature thoroughly. My case was J.J. Voskuil's Bij nader inzien (a novel about a group of students in Dutch literature at the University of Amsterdam in the late 1950s) and it's Wirkungsgeschichte (criticism, film adaptation).
Together with my friend and colleague Jos Joosten, professor of Dutch literature at RU Nijmegen, I wrote Postmoderne poëzie in Nederland en Vlaandereren, published by Uitgeverij Vantilt in 2003. In this much-cited book we attempt to reconsider the Dutch and Flemish poetical production since the 1980's in the light of historical postmodernism. The conception of historical postmodernism that we have developed first of all wants counter the (Dutch) communis opinio that there has been no avant-garde since the 1960s. The fact that also the non-mainstream contemporary poets have been co-opted by the commercial literary circus surely indicates that as an institute, the avant-garde has fundamentally changed its nature since the beginning of the last century, but that fact does not reduce the 'alterity' and 'foreignness' of the texts of the contemporary avant-garde.
In 2001, De verstoorde lezer; over de onbegrijpelijkepoëzie van Lucebert [The Unsettled Reader; Lucebert's Incomprehensible Poetry] was the first book I did with my current Dutch publisher: Uitgeverij Vantilt in Nijmegen. The book analyses how the Dutch poet and painter Lucebert (1924-1994) frustrates the classical reading strategies of new criticism end early structuralism, even beforenew criticism reached Dutch literary criticism. De verstoorde lezer turned out to be the pilot for another book: Postmoderne poëzie in Nederland en Vlaanderen (see above).
In 1998 Uitgeverij De Arbeiderspers published my PhD-thesis Circus Dubio & Schroom; Nijhoff, van Ostaijen en de mentaliteit van het modernism [Circus Waver & Hesitance; Dutch Poetry and the Mentality of Modernism]. In this book I challenge the idea of the (alleged) disinterestedness of historical modernism. I focus on the work and the poetics of two icons of Dutch historical modernism: the Dutch poet, critic and translator M. Nijhoff (1894-1953), and the Flemish poet and critic Paul van Ostaijen (1896-1928). I read their work against the light of classical social theory of Modernity (Max Weber, Theodor Adorno, Anthony Giddens, Zygmunt Bauman, Ernest Gellner: the idea of rationalization and disenchantment).
Below you can find links to E-versions of some of my publications. You can find a complete list of my publications in my CV.