De Achttiende Eeuw 47 (2015) nr.1 

Edwina Hagen and Joris Oddens, Self-Fashioning in the Eighteenth Century. A Brief Historiographical Introduction

In this special issue, two social historians, two historians of political culture, and two literary historians have engaged in an exploration of the relevance of Stephen Greenblatt’s concept of self-fashioning for their own research into the history and culture of the Dutch eighteenth century. In recent years, the concept of self-fashioning has been particularly influential in eighteenth-century historical research. This introduction gives a brief overview of the research areas in which the concept has attracted most attention and provides some representative examples of recent scholarship.

Henk Looijesteijn & Marco H.D. van Leeuwen, Fashioning the Self after Death: the Case of Eighteenth-Century Philanthropist Maria Duyst van Voorhout
The Dutch Republic enjoyed an enduring reputation as a charitable nation, and a considerable number of charities were founded by wealthy benefactors. Some of those benefactors were without children, and their charities were intended to perpetuate the memory of their founder. Not infrequently, they provided for this by making detailed stipulations about how they were to be commemorated. In this article we study the case of the Dutch noblewoman Maria Duyst van Voorhout (1662-1754), Baroness of Renswoude, founder of a uniquely eighteenth-century type of educational charity, and we investigate the manner in which she was commemorated in her foundations. We have applied the concept of self-fashioning to her case, and contend that the fashioning of a philanthropic persona often took place post-mortem, and was influenced by what the executors of the will thought appropriate. One might therefore argue that there is no question of self-fashioning. However, we show that certain considerations of commemoration would have been tacitly implied, and therefore more or less assumed, so that a measure of agency must still be presumed.

Jan Rock, Refashioning Poets, Fashioning Readers. Explorations of the Self-Fashioning of Jacob Arnout Clignett and Jan Steenwinkel, 1781-1784
Two young scholars from Leiden in the 1780s and their historical-linguistic work serve as a starting point for an exploration of the transhistorical usefulness of Stephen Greenblatt’s concept of ‘self-fashioning’ in understanding the history of nationalism and philology in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The case consists of early philological publications by Jacob Arnout Clignett and Jan Steenwinkel: their Taelkundige mengelingen (1781-1785) and their edition of Jacob van Maerlant’s Spiegel historiael (1784). The case is at once representative of its time and prefigures the development of historicist culture after 1800.
From Greenblatt’s concept, both the textual and embodied aspects of self-fashioning, aimed at creating authority and independence in weakly demarcated fields of society, are adopted to broaden our view on nationalist philology. This study aims to go beyond analyses of national representations of the linguistic and literary past: studying the philologists’ self-fashioning and their refashioning of Maerlant brings lesser known processes into view, such as their derivation of philological authority from scholarly sociability, the performative creation of a community with their readers, and their emphasis on the pleasure that comes from reading and understanding ancient authors. These processes seem to have created as much historical representations as the historicist illusion.

Edwina Hagen, Fashioning the Political Self and the Emotional Identity of the Batavian Citizens in “The Female Friend of the Fatherland”, 1798/99
The Dutch female writer, poet and journalist Petronella Moens (1762-1843) has often been portrayed as a moderate revolutionary whose writings stayed within the boundaries of what was considered the female domain. This certainly contains some truth: even though Moens was unmarried and childless herself, she advocated motherhood and asserted that knowledge was essential for women to raise their children to be valuable citizens of the nation. Moens lived up to this reputation even in the 1790s, when she went through a rather radical phase. In 1796 she was one of the few Dutch supporters of equal political rights for women. Two years later, shortly after the Dutch National Assembly had formalized the political exclusion of women, she set up her own spectator, The Female Friend of the Fatherland. This article analyses the striking paradox between what Moens represented herself and what she wanted for her female readers. It argues that she managed to work around this contradiction by creating a political self through an emotional form of self-fashioning. This public persona was highly compassionate and permitted women to shape their political selves within the acceptable norms of motherhood.
Ivo Nieuwenhuis, Satiric Self-Fashioning, or the Illusion of Independent Criticism. A ‘Greenblattian’ Analysis of Eighteenth-Century Satire
This article applies Stephen Greenblatt’s concept of self-fashioning, thought of as the recurring tension within the – artistic and intellectual – self-representation of individuals between personal identity formation and the social and ideological forces that limit this process, to the genre of satire, especially as it occurred in the eighteenth century. In doing so, it argues that the validity of the claim of independence, often made by satirists, should be downplayed. Like any other person – artist, politician or scholar – satirists are heavily indebted to the historical world they live in, and their claimed autonomy as the fool speaking truth to power is at least partly rhetorical. This point is illustrated first through a general discussion of eighteenth-century culture and the genre of satire, then by analyzing a case study from the late eighteenth-century Netherlands, the satirist Pieter van Woensel, who posited himself as an independent critic of the revolutionary age he lived in. The analysis shows Van Woensel’s indebtedness, both socially and politically, to the ideological domain of enlightened conservatism. The application of the concept of self-fashioning to eighteenth-century satire also intends to show the usefulness of this concept as an analytical tool outside its original scholarly context.

Joris Oddens, Self-Fashioning and Revolutionary Portraiture. Jan van Hooff’s portraits historiés
This case study is an exploration of the ways in which two late eighteenth-century portraits functioned as vehicles for political self-fashioning. My approach is that of a historian of political culture rather than of an art historian. This means that I am primarily interested in how a set of two related portraits historiés of the Dutch revolutionary Jan van Hooff contributed to the contemporary and the posthumous image of their subject, and to what extent this image was shaped both by Van Hooff’s own choices and by the prevailing frames of reference of the Age of Revolution and thereafter. I argue that Van Hooff’s portraits, besides having elements more typical of revolutionary portraiture, also bring forward his strong desire to bear testimony to an extraordinary republican selflessness. While selflessness was an ideal that was shared by the entire revolutionary generation, Van Hooff’s active attitude toward professing this character feature both vocally and visually later made of him – a Brabantine native – the ideal figurehead in the narrative of the revolutionary emancipation of the province of Brabant, regardless of his actual contribution to this process.


De Achttiende Eeuw 47 (2015) nr.2