Chronotopes in the 19th-century Belgian historical novel: the case of Joseph Ronsse's "Arnold van Schoorisse"

TitleChronotopes in the 19th-century Belgian historical novel: the case of Joseph Ronsse's "Arnold van Schoorisse"
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsBemong, Nele
JournalDutch Crossing
Start Page276
KeywordsBakhtin, chronotope, Flemish literature, historical novel

In this contribution I explore the perspectives Mikhail Bakhtin’s chronotope concept offers for the study of the intrinsically hybrid genre of the historical novel. By applying the concept to the analysis of the early 19th-century Flemish historical novel, I illustrate how the chronotope of the adventure novel of ordeal, which structures a significant number of the historical novels published in Belgium between 1830 and 1850, and which can be traced back to the ancient Greek romance, can undergo drastic revisions under the influence of the particular poetics of the Belgian historical novel. During the first two decades of Belgian independence the poetics of the genre was strongly determined by the nationalist and didactic function the historical novel was called upon to perform. On the basis of an analysis of the historical adventure novel Arnold van Schoorisse (1845) by Joseph Ronsse – after Hendrik Conscience the second author to practise the genre in Flanders – I will illustrate how the first Flemish novelists harked back to traditional chronotopes (and their corresponding plots and motives) with which the largely uneducated Flemish public was familiar from a mostly oral folk tradition, and tried to remould these to accord with their own purposes and with the demands and regulations of the genre.

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