Three Attempts at a Dutch Sublime


  • Christophe Madelein
  • Jürgen Pieters


Sublime, Netherlands, Kinker, Van Hemert, Bilderdijk


In this article we present three central texts from the Dutch debate on the sublime between 1750 and 1850. It is surprising that hardly any attention has been paid to these three texts – and, by extension, to the translations of international works on the sublime that preceded their publication in the Dutch-language area. These texts, however, are not the work of second-rate authors: Paulus van Hemert, Johannes Kinker and Willem Bilderdijk are leading representatives of Dutch culture in the first decades of the nineteenth century. Each of these three authors was sufficiently familiar with the international debate on the sublime, as the occasional references in their texts to the writings of fellow authors on the sublime from other countries testify. They were also familiar with the history of the sublime, to which they no doubt hoped to contribute with their own texts. We give a short outline of this historical development and then try to place the Dutch interventions within the framework of the international debate. From this it may then transpire that ‘Dutch attempts at sublimity’ should not by definition be thought of disparagingly.

Author Biographies

Christophe Madelein

Christophe Madelein does research on eighteenth-century Dutch literature at Ghent University. He is the author of a history of the sublime in the Netherlands, Juigchen in den adel der menschlijke natuur. Het verhevene in de Nederlanden (1770-1830) (2010).

Jürgen Pieters

Jürgen Pieters teaches literary theory at Ghent University. He is the author of Moments of Negotiation. The New Historicism of Stephen Greenblatt (2001) and Speaking with the dead. Explorations in Literature and History (2005). His most recent book is Historische letterkunde vandaag en morgen (Amsterdam University Press, 2011). Together Madelein and Pieters have edited Bilderdijk, Kinker & Van Hemert, Als van hooger bestemming en aart (2008).




How to Cite

Madelein, C., & Pieters, J. (2011). Three Attempts at a Dutch Sublime. Journal of Dutch Literature, 2(1). Retrieved from