Mytho-poetics at Work

A Study of the Figure of Egmont, the Dutch Revolt and its Influence in Europe


In Mytho-poetics at Work Rengenier Rittersma offers an account of the posthumous fame of the Count of Egmont (1522-1568), whose public decapitation triggered the Dutch revolt. Drawing from numerous European sources – pamphlets, chronicles, and literature – this monograph tries to unravel why and how the alleged freedom fighter became an icon in European thought. It demonstrates that Egmont unfurled an evocative power over several centuries and cultural regions, as his name could be deliberately instrumentalized by different groups of people in order to corroborate their own confessional and political programs.
In addition, this book offers the very first systematic study of the phenomenon of mytho-genesis and provides a conceptual model that can be applied to analogous historical myths.
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EUR €151.00USD $174.00

Biographical Note

Rengenier Rittersma studied History and German Philology (cum laude) in Amsterdam and Heidelberg and obtained his Ph.D. in History from the European University Institute, Florence. His current project is Tartufomania: Truffle Obsessions in Europe since the Renaissance.

Review Quotes

"This book is a splendid achievement: the research is prodigious, the work is clearly organized, and the writing is elegant and even witty. I certainly learned much that I did not know about a classic work of German literature."
Theodore Ziolkowski, Princeton University

“Rittersma's book can be perceived as a cornerstone in a cultural history of Europe, since it is one of the very first studies that systematically tackles the transformation, during a period of more than two centuries, of a historical figure.”
Peter Burschel, Director Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel

Table of contents

Preface to the German Edition
List of Illustrations


Part 1
To Order the Unprecedented: Egmont in Proto-

Section 1

1 Preliminary Remarks on the Source Corpus

2 Biographical Information on the Eyewitnesses and Authors

Section 2
The Various Layers of the Early Egmont Reception

3 The Atavistic Layer

4 The Particularistic Layer

5 The Theocratic Redemptive-Historical Layer

6 The Religious-Confessional Layer

7 The Person-Centered Layer
 Intermezzo: The Sacred Layer
 Continuation of the Person-Centered Layer

8 The Anti-Spanish Layer

9 The Anti-Spanish Layer in the Early Foreign Egmont Reception

Concluding Remarks: On Dealing with the Quirks of History

Part 2
To Exploit the Anachronism: Egmont in Historiography

10 Preliminary Remarks on the Source Corpus

11 A Historiographical Subgenus: Herography

12 The Struggle for Preponderance: Historiography in the Wake of Sectarian Wrangling

13 The Target: The Supremacy of Northern Dutch Historiography

14 In the Wake of Politics: Grotius’ Historiography as “Certification” of the Republic’s Birth

15 In the Name of the Search for Truth: De Thou’s Historiography as an Irenic Manifesto

16 Under the Spell of prudentia: Strada’s and Bentivoglio’s Historiography as a Political Lesson
 1 The Baroque: More than a Transitional Stage Between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment
 2 “Quell’Aiace e questo Ulisse.” Egmont and Orange in Strada and Bentivoglio

17 In the Spirit of the Enlightenment: Wagenaar’s Historiography as an Empirical Analysis of the Past

Concluding Remarks: On Dealing with the History’s Late-Comers

Part 3
To Eulogise the Unfeigned: Egmont in the European Age of Revolution

Section 1
The Dead End: On How the German Baroque Left Behind No Trace of Egmont

Section 2
“The Path to Glory”: Egmont’s Finest Hour in the Revolutionary Era

18 Defining the Problem, Delineating the Theme

19 The Development of the Chosen One: On Goethe’s Sources for His Egmont Tragedy

20 The Development of the Chosen One: On Schiller’s Sources for His Egmont Treatment

21 “Under Similar Constellations”: A Star Over Brussels, Rome, Weimar

22 Egmont, or: The Excess of Noble-Mindedness

23 Egmont, the Man of Integrity, or: Praise for an Honest and Undisguised Man

24 Synopsis: The Afterlife of Count Lamoral of Egmont Since 1800

Concluding Remarks: Dealing with the Patterns of History

Afterword: On the Writhing Carcas and the homo amplificator
Appendix 1: The Element of Chess in Goethe’s Egmont
Appendix 2: Illustrations of the Process of Mycorrhiza
Appendix 3: Textual Comparison between the Ypres Eyewitness Account and Pieter Christiaenszoon Bor’s Nederlantsche Oorloghen
Appendix 4: Schematic Overview of the Transmission of the Egmont Material between the Proto- and the Historiographical Phases of the Egmont Reception
Appendix 5: Summary of the State of Research on Goethe’s Egmont in German Studies
Appendix 6: Complete Passages on Egmont’s Noble-Mindedness
Appendix 7: Extensive Citation from Fugger-Zeitung
Published Primary Sources
Unpublished Primary Sources: Manuscripts and Pamphlets
Secondary Literature
Register of Names


All interested in myth-making, histoire de l'imaginaire and the socio-political context of (German) literature in general as well as anyone concerned with the Dutch revolt and the Goethezeit in particular.