Hendrik Conscience in search of the modern novel. Characters in De leeuw van Vlaenderen: Personages in De leeuw van Vlaenderen

Dirk De Geest, Pieter Verstraeten

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The literary work of Hendrik Conscience has predominantly been read in terms of its role in constructing a collective cultural identity in the context of the emergent Belgian nation state. Moreover, his novels are often studied from a biographical perspective and are almost directly related to the author’s institutional position. In contrast, this article explores the largely overlooked literary dimension of Conscience’s early writings, by analyzing the narrative strategies that are adopted in the development of the relatively new genre of the novel. More specifically, it focuses on the characters in De Leeuw van Vlaenderen (1838). In contrast to what is generally assumed, these characters are not the mere representatives of a general type or a social group, for they unmistakably show certain individualizing characteristics, take a unique position in the complex network of characters and are even endowed with a kind of interiority and subjectivity. This tension between the typical and the individual, it is argued, is an essential characteristic of the emerging genre of the novel and is indicative of the ambiguous historical situation of De leeuw van Vlaenderen, which combines classical ingredients with new novelistic models.
Translated title of the contributionHendrik Conscience in search of the modern novel. Characters in De leeuw van Vlaenderen
Original languageDutch
Pages (from-to)173-191
JournalVerslagen en Mededelingen van de Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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