Literary Performances of Post-Religious Memory in the Netherlands

Gerard Reve, Jan Wolkers, Maarten ’t Hart


This book offers an in-depth study of iconic literary narratives and images of religious transformation and secularisation in the Netherlands during the 1960s and 1970s. Jesseka Batteau shows how Gerard Reve, Jan Wolkers and Maarten ’t Hart texts and performances can be understood as instances of religious and post-religious memory with a broad public impact. They contributed to a widely shared perspective on the Dutch religious past and a collective understanding of what secularisation consists of. This uniquely interdisciplinary approach combines insights from literary studies, memory studies, media studies and religious studies and traces the complex dynamics of the circulation of memory and meaning between literary texts, mass media and embodied performances within a post-religious society.

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Jesseka Maria Batteau, PhD (2014, Utrecht University), is an affiliated researcher at Utrecht University. Her interest is in the interrelation between literature, art, memory and social transformation.
“Batteau eindigt haar boek met een beschouwing over Lale Gül die zich verzet tegen haar islamistische opvoeding en komt zo ook weer terug bij Rushdie. Het boek geeft een mooi beeld van de naoorlogse morele veranderingen in de Nederlandse samenleving.”
- In Utrecht University, October 2021

List of Illustrations


1 Cultural Memory, the Author and Post-Religious Identity
 1 Cultural Memory: A Constructivist Definition
 2 Performing Memory: Embodiment, Repertoire and the Scenario
 3 Literature and Memory: Mediations, Mimesis and Rhetoric
  3.1 Representing Memory in Literature: Rhetoric and Techniques
 4 The Author as Figure of Memory
 5 Autobiographical Interpretation
 6 (Post-)Religious Memory

2 Cultural and Religious Transformations in the Netherlands
 1 Secularisation and Religious Transformation
  1.1 Religious and Ideological Communities before 1960
  1.2 Seculariation and Religious Transformation after 1960
  1.3 Transformation and Modernisation within the Churches
  1.4 Sexuality as Index of Secularisation in the Netherlands
 2 Mass Media, Religion and ‘The Sixties’
  2.1 Images and Narratives of Secularisation/Religious Transformation
  2.2 ‘The Sixties’ as Extended Media Event
  2.3 The Provo’s: 1965–1967
 3 Shifting Parameters in the Literary Domain
  3.1 Literature and Authorship before 1960
  3.2 Authorship after 1960
  3.3 Approach

3 (Dis)playing the Roman Catholic Tradition: Gerard Reve
 1 Introduction
 2 First Hints of Reve’s Religiosity (1947–1962)
  2.1 Reve’s Debut and the ‘Apotheosis’
  2.2 First Mention of Reve’s Religiosity: ‘Ja, ik ben een christen’
 3 Literary Confession and the Appropriation of Religious Discourse (1963–1966)
  3.1 First Volume of Letters: Op weg naar het einde (1963)
 4 The Staging of the (Post-)Religious (1966–1969)
  4.1 Reve’s Conversion
  4.2 The Blasphemy Trial as an Enactment of Religious Transformation
  4.3 Theatricality and Reve’s ‘Consecration’ in the Allerheiligste Hart-Church
  4.4 ‘Fag-Church’: Public Responses to the ‘New Church-Service’
 5 Restagings (1970–2006)
  5.1 Exhaustion of the Provocative Function
  5.2 Reve as Figure of Memory
  5.3 The Death of an Icon
  5.4 Conclusion

4 Processing the Protestant Past: Jan Wolkers
 1 Introduction
 2 Autobiographical Framing, Affect and the Protestant Past (1963)
  2.1 First Encounters with Wolkers’ Protestant Past
  2.2 Confessional Prose and ‘afrekening’: Representing a Post-Religious Generation
  2.3 The Bible and Two Modes of Remembrance
  2.4 Memorable Reading I : Mutilation, Death and Decay
  2.5 Memorable Reading II : Sex
 3 Wolkers’ Authorial Persona in Interviews (1963–1964)
  3.1 Authorial Confirmation of the Autobiographical
  3.2 Gerard Reve versus Jan Wolkers
  3.3 Representing the Body of the Author: Affect and Repertoire
 4 Post-Protestant Memory: Terug naar Oegstgeest (1965)
  4.1 Farewell to the Father: De hond met de blauwe tong (1964)
  4.2 Constructing a Post-Protestant Identity: Terug naar Oegstgeest (1965)
  4.3 Performing Post-Protestant Memory in the Media
 5 Sexuality as Vehicle of Identity
  5.1 Turks Fruit (1969)
  5.2 The Transformation of Wolkers’ Image
  6 The persistence of the Protestant past
  6.1 Condensing Post-Protestant Identity
  6.2 The Death of an Icon
  6.3 Conclusion

5 Embodying Post-Protestant Identity: Maarten ’t Hart
 1 Introduction
 2 Is the Religious Past Really Past? (1971–1977)
  2.1 ‘Wolkers in a Jacket’: Plugging into an Existing Narrative of Ex-Protestantism
  2.2 Autobiographical Readings: Het vrome volk (1974)
  2.3 Authorial Confirmation of the Autobiographical: Interviews (1975–1976)
  2.4 Repetition and ‘Materialised Gossip’: Mammoet op zondag (1977)
 3 A Post-Protestant Scenario: Een vlucht regenwulpen (1978)
  3.1 Een vlucht regenwulpen (1978, Novel): Establishing a Post-Protestant Scenario
  3.2 Een vlucht regenwulpen (1981, Film): Remediating the Scenario
 4 Post-Protestant Performances: Embodiments and Materialisations (1979-present)
  4.1 Repertoire and ‘Specialist Knowledge’
  4.2 Gender and the Protestant past: the ‘Maartje’-Episode
  4.3 Space and Materiality: Maassluis as lieu de mémoire
 5 Identification and Contestation in the Orthodox Protestant milieux de mémoire
  5.1 Liberal or Orthodox: Maarten ’t Hart as Medium of Protestant Self-Reflection
  5.2 Interpretation as Counter-Memory: Literary Critic Hans Werkman
  5.3 Reaffirmation and Reinterpretation of Doctrine: Protestant Theology
  5.4 Conclusion

Original Quotations (Dutch)
Scholars in literary studies, cultural memory studies media studies and religious studies, all interested in Dutch cultural and literary history and those interested in Dutch religion and secularisation.
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