Els Stronks, born in Aalten, the Netherlands, in 1965. Ph.D. from Utrecht University. Professor of Early Modern Dutch Literature at Utrecht University.
KB Fellow (1 September 2014 – 31 January 2015)
Invisible Ink. Digital Reading in Early Modern Texts
How recognizable and traceable is the concept ‘youth’ in Dutch texts produced between 1550-1800?
In the decades around 1600, the Low Countries were flooded with an enormous amount of song books produced for one particular age group, young people. Those song books can be perceived as an indication that adults – who owned the printing presses and ruled the distribution of the printed media – tuned into to the special needs and interests of youngsters, for the first time in Western history. This projects aims to chart the emergence of youth culture in early modern Dutch texts. This done by using digital analytical tools. Finding an answer to the question how the concept ‘youth’ emerged in Dutch culture is now doable, for analytical tools allow us to measure and determine the trending and dominants topics, themes and sentiments in textual cultures. What were the words used to address, identify and form young people, and what were the social meaning and impacts of those words? A very first digitally enhanced test performed in songbooks produced between 1550-1600 (meant either for an adult or young audience) resulted in the remarkable finding that the word ‘I’ was significantly more frequently used in songs for the youth than in songs for the adults. Should the assumption that the rise of an egocentric ‘me-first’ culture is a specific feature of modern youth culture be reconsidered? And what more can we expect from reading between the lines of early modern Dutch texts?
1) Stronks, E. (2011). Negotiating Differences. Word, Image and Religion in the Dutch Republic. Leiden: Brill.
2) Stronks, E. (2009). Dutch Religious Love Emblems. Reflections of Faith and Toleration in the later seventeenth century. Literature and Theology, 23(2), 142-164.
3) Stronks, E., Boot, P. & Stiebral, D. (2007). Learned Love. Proceedings of the Emblem Project Utrecht Conference on Dutch Love Emblems and the Internet (November 2006). Utrecht: Edita.