Research team

Institute for the Study of Literature in the Low Countries (ISLN)

Expertise

The history of the book in the Low Countries after 1800, in particular the historic of Dutch and Flemish literary publishing. Literature and nationalism, Flemish nationalism in particular The history of Dutch and Flemish literature after 1800. Authors I have a special interest in: Hugo Claus, Hendrik Conscience, Felix Timmermans. Literature and utopianism, literature and science/technology Literature and Language ideology in Flanders/Belgium

CATCH 2020: Computer-Assisted Transcription of Complex Handwriting. 01/05/2018 - 30/04/2021

Abstract

CATCH 2020 aims to provide a working infrastructure for the computer-assisted transcription of complex handwritten documents. It will do so by building on the existing Transkribus platform for Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) – which allows us to process handwritten textual documents in a way that is similar to how OCR processes printed textual documents.. Rather than producing flat transcripts of digital facsimile images, however, CATCH 2020 will produce structured texts, providing tools to add textual and linguistic dimensions to the transcription by combining the state of the art of the research field of textual scholarship with the state of the art of the research field of computational linguistics.

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'Sketches from Flemish life'. Forms of Exemplarity and the Construction of Social Minds in Hendrik Conscience's Novels of Manners. 03/06/2019 - 02/12/2019

Abstract

The Antwerp author Hendrik Conscience (1812-1883) went down in history as 'the man who taught his people to read'. The catchphrase not only captures the nationalist and didactic ambitions of his literature, but also his popularity among nineteenth-century readers, both in Belgium and abroad. Yet in spite of his reputation as one of the pioneers of Flemish literature, modern scholarly research on Conscience's oeuvre is scarce. We do not know, for example, how his popular stories actually addressed their audiences and which visions of reality they did construct. Without a structural investigation of the rhetoric of these texts in relation to the cultural context in which they were created and circulated, the national and international appeal of Conscience cannot be properly understood. The current PhD-project addresses for the first time a number of fundamental questions about the texts by which Conscience taught a people to read. It investigates how Conscience's novels of manners frame the reader's perception of social reality from a rhetorical perspective. The project pays careful attention to the way different degrees of generalizing reality (forms of exemplarity, cf. David 2010) invite readers to identify with visions on reality that are presented as common, which can be described, following Palmer (2010), as instances of 'social minds' in the analyzed novels. By interpreting and positioning Conscience's narrative techniques in relation to contemporary discourses on the Flemish Movement, the European culture of sentiment, and the advent of realism, this project sheds a whole new light on the position and function of his works within the Flemish and European literary field of the nineteenth century. The project achieves a deeper understanding of Conscience's narrative techniques and their ethical dimensions and reassesses the literary-historical significance of his oeuvre. Its results moreover provide an insight in the ways narrative form and content reflect and at the same time generate the attitudes, discourses, and ways of thinking that make up a culture.

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Growing Scientists. STEM-representations, identity construction and active citizenship in fictional and nonfictional children's literature. 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

Literacy with regard to Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) is considered worldwide to be a key factor in societal growth. Research and education are therefore strongly geared towards fostering STEM literacy. Cultural artefacts for the young, such as children's books, are rarely included in these efforts. That omission is deplorable, because children's concepts of science are not only constructed in schools or museums. Stories and books contribute to children's identity construction, to their worldviews, and to their perception of STEM. Contemporary children's literature is characterized by a great diversity in terms of target groups, genres and literary quality, but science is a recurrent topic. We find scientific themes in popular series, awarded books (in particular in so-called literary nonfiction) and as the focus of the children's book week. The rich array of contemporary children's books offers a varied image of STEM and scientists and can thus counteract the stereotypical image of the male, old and confused scientist that children encounter time and again in popular culture. This research project therefore focuses on contemporary children's books carrying schemes, scripts and metaphors related to STEM, in order to assess their potential contribution to STEM-education and to reflections on science and scientists. Based on theories and models from cognitive sciences, we analyze a corpus of children's fiction and nonfiction for children aged 6 to 14, published in 2000-2015. First, we map the diversity of scientists as characters in the children's books. In addition to the importance of gender that is highlighted in STEM-education, we also draw attention to age, social class, race, and physical and mental abilities. Second, we explore the narratological features that are used to address children as budding scientists. Crucial is the concept of scientific agency, that is the way in which STEM is shown to increase (or limit) the power and opportunities of growth for the characters. Next, we analyze how children's books teach scientific knowledge and skills and how they cast the relationship between science and society. In the course of this analysis, we focus on recurrent scripts, such as the Eureka experience, or the Frankenstein plot. This project is the first to apply models from cognitive poetics to children's literature about STEM. In addition, it is unique in studying both fiction and non-fiction for children, and exploring a corpus of contemporary Dutch-language children's literature that has been neglected by literary scholarship. Finally, in connecting STEM education and literary scholarship, this project aims to have a significant social impact.

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'I write my own Claus-language'. Language variation in the literary prose of Hugo Claus (1929-2008): a stylistic analysis 01/10/2014 - 30/09/2018

Abstract

Language has in Belgium always been the object of conflict. Not simply between its French and Dutch speaking communities, but also within Flanders, a fierce debate has been devoted to language norms. Advocates of strict conformity to northern Dutch prevailed, but compliance with this norm has not always run so smoothly. This prompted investments to promote Standard Dutch, which gradually developed into a process that linguists today are beginning to recognize as 'hyperstandardisation'. It is in this climate that Hugo Claus (1929-2008) starts experimenting with a language that openly mixes Standard Dutch with Flemish dialects; the author himself dubbed it 'Claus-language'. While Claus is one of the most investigated Flemish authors, his language is still beset with many ambiguities. This research will systematically investigate the language variation in the prose of Claus, how it fits with the author's poetics and why Claus felt the need to 'invent' a new language. It will also examine how this 'Claus-language' may have affected linguistic debate in Flanders, especially the discussion concerning the so-called 'tussentaal' ('interlanguage'). Through combining linguistic and literary research methods and, more in particular, through using a number of methods derived from international stylistics research, this proposal does not only address a gap in Claus studies, but also stimulates interaction between linguistic and literary research on a theoretical and methodological level.

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Monograph "Van Hugo Claus tot hoelahoep. Vlaanderen in beweging, 1950-1960"(From Hugo Claus to hula-hoop. Flanders is moving, 1950-1960). 11/10/2006 - 31/12/2006

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