Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

The Theatre of Emotions: Spanish Drama in the Seventeenth-Century Low Countries

How can we explain the popularity of the Spanish comedia nueva in the seventeenth-century theatre scene of the Low Countries?

Duration
2017  -   2021
Contact
Tim Vergeer
Funding
NWO Promoties in de Geesteswetenschappen 2017 NWO Promoties in de Geesteswetenschappen 2017

The Dutch Golden Age had its own Hollywood: Spain. Like today’s film blockbusters, Dutch versions of Spanish plays were performed on the stages of Amsterdam, Antwerp and Brussels where they attracted large audiences. The theatres of these metropolises showcased the latest international vogues and innovations of the European literary entertainment industry. The greatest innovation was the Spanish comedia nueva adapted for Dutch theatre. It was so popular that it dominated Dutch theatres for some hundred and fifty years between 1617 and 1772, with its peak in the seventeenth century.

Unlike local theatre traditions, the comedias did not conform to the dominant neo-stoic and ‘classicist’ literary discourse in the Low Countries, but were essentially baroque and spectacular. Theatre-goers preferred the emotional experience of the imported Spanish plays to the staider tragic plots of Vondel, Hooft, ‘Nil Volentibus Arduum’ or even Vos. This development raises the question of why the comedia nueva was so popular in the Low Countries.

By analysing the tension between neo-stoic discourse and theatrical practices, this research will examine the emotional culture in the seventeenth-century Low Countries and account for the emotionality of the comedias as opposed to the ‘stoic’ experience of emotions. Drawing from the field of the History of Emotions, the project will shed new light on the seventeenth-century Low Countries and our (still nineteenth-century biased) perception of the period. Through this, the project aims to cast into relief the problematic status emotions generally held in the seventeenth century.

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