Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

The poet as pop star. Literary celebrity in the Netherlands 1780-1900

In which way was literary celebrity constructed in the nineteenth century and what forms of fandom were there?

Duration
2013  -   2017
Contact
Rick Honings
Funding
NWO VENI NWO VENI

Modern pop stars cultivate their image. The invention of modern fandom has its origins in the 19 th century. This project examines literary celebrity and the different forms of fandom, and looks at the way Dutch poets between 1780 and 1900 presented themselves as public figures. 

Madonna, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga are modern celebrities with a unique image. However, the idea of the artist as a public, eccentric figure seems to be older. Although this phenomenon can already be observed in antiquity, it mainly flourished in the 19th century, due to the upcoming cult of genius. The rise of celebrity culture is related to the introduction of modern ideas on art and literature. In the international field this topic has received a great deal of attention, but the focus has so far been on the Anglo-American situation only.

This research proposal focuses on the literary celebrity of Dutch poets between 1780 and 1900 – a topic that has to this day been disregarded. The aim is to uncover the roots of Dutch literary celebrity for the first time by analysing the life and works of poets with an artistic image, like Bilderdijk, Beets and Kloos. How did they fashion their image? How did contemporaries perceive them? To what extent did the Dutch situation correspond with or deviate from international currents? Three types of sources will be covered: poetical texts, eyewitness reports and sources on how the poet was viewed after his death.

The central idea of this project is that in the 19th century, the poet became conscious of the need for an image. The poet was a performer who presented himself as a genius capable of surpassing other people. To that end he (for he was a he) often modelled his image on foreign examples such as Byron and Heine. At the same time, the phenomenon of ‘Fandom’ came into existence. Studying the poets’ images will clarify the growing importance of literary celebrity in the Netherlands. At the same time this research will supply the Dutch dynamic in the international scholarly discourse on literary celebrity.

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