PhD ceremony: Ms. E.A.J. Ast-Boiten, 16.15 uur, Aula Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen
Dissertation: Stad tussen Verlichting en Romantiek: Groningen 1780-1850
Promotor(s): prof. M.G.J. Duijvendak
The period between the late eighteenth century up to the mid-nineteenth century clearly appears to be an era of profound turmoil and change in Europe. The French Revolution, the rise and fall of Napoleon, had rocked many states to their foundations. As for the Netherlands, the United Republic gave way to the unitary state and eventually to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. However, the union with Belgium did not last long and to the indignation of the north the Belgians seceded. Culturally and artistically, we see how French inspired Classicism gave way to Romanticism. In the Netherlands, Romanticism was in fact viewed upon with some suspicion; this was certainly the case regarding French orientated Romanticism, which was actually rejected. All this was not any different in the city of Groningen.
In ‘A City between Enlightenment and Romanticism’ Lies Ast-Boiten undertakes a search for the ambitions and preferences of a - at the time - remote provincial town. In a total of six chapters the reading culture, the Society for the Benefit of All, the societies, the theatre and music scene and also the literary life are mapped out.
It appears that at the end of the eighteenth century a vanguard, inspired by the international Enlightenment was committed to political change and moral citizenship. This vanguard was patriot minded, and held a moderate and tolerant stand on religion. It is striking to see that this vanguard turns out to consist of ardent supporters of the national unitary state. Around 1800, Romanticism was introduced and, as elsewhere, Bilderdijk, Byron and Walter Scott would become literary heroes. Bookseller and publisher Van Boekeren played a significant role in this process due to the fact that he was the first to translate Scott into Dutch. With B.H. Lulofs as a professor of Dutch language and rhetoric, the University of the city of Groningen took on a nationalistic quality, while the lawyer and poet H.O. Spandaw even acquired national fame for a few years due to his glorification of his homeland. The development of artistic and cultural taste followed the same lines as in the rest of the Netherlands. As for the accessibility to and variety of cultural activities in the city, is it fair to say that it most definitely suffered under its geographical isolation. The fear of falling behind was therefore an ever-present constant in the city.
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