Ralf is currently working on the project “A country of mediocre literature. Literary concepts of the juridical and political elites in the Netherlands in the 20th century”. The project aims at writing relevant parts of a history of the Dutch literary field in the 20th century from the perspective of the juridical and political elites. This relation has been usually described in terms of a growing autonomisation of literature since the end of the 19th century. In case of conflict (for example around literary trials or political censorship) most literary scholars act as a party in a conflict, that is: as defenders of literary autonomy. In the present project however, an analytical meta-perspective on the conflicting parties will be taken. By looking at the Dutch literary field through the eyes of the juridical and political elites, the project starts out to reconstruct the professional behaviour and views towards literature of those outside the literary field, especially concerning their poetic preferences and ideas on the societal function and status of literature. In order to do so, the project will use sources that have been neglected so far: concerning politics, it will analyse systematically all parliamentary debates in which literature has played a role. Concerning law, and in addition to the documents from trials that the applicant has used in earlier research, the project will look at all available texts from all persons that can be taken as juridical-literary mediators in the Netherlands of the 20th century: lawyers in Dutch literary trials and jurists that publish regularly on literature. This reconstruction of the views and professional behaviour from those outside the literary field will then be held against the state of art of Dutch literary scholarship with regard to literary history and field-theory. This way, the project will add a further dimension to the picture of the Dutch literary field and thereby promises a more adequate reconstruction and a more plausible explanation of its comparatively delayed development in the 20th century. Especially, it will investigate the indications that the Dutch elites show more reservations towards their own (in casu: Dutch) modern literature than other nations. Accordingly, at the end of the project, the specificity of the Dutch case will be discussed a workshop (with the working title “Literature and the Field of Power from an International Comparative Perspective”), exploring in how far the results concerning the Netherlands offer fruitful perspectives for other literary fields and/or for a more detailed theoretical model of the ever changing and contested power-balance between the literary field and the field of power.
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