Stoelen, manden, stenen. Objecten in de hedendaagse roman

Ben De Bruyn, Pieter Verstraeten


Drawing on the writings of Bruno Latour and Bill Brown, this article discusses the material turn in contemporary criticism and literature in two related steps. On a general level, it sketches the contours of a reading method capable of describing the remarkably complex role of material objects in the modern novel, paying particular attention to the circulation of objects, the tension between ‘objects’ and ‘things’ and the ambiguous ontological status of these recalcitrant items. These insights are then applied to a set of contemporary novels in Dutch written by Willem van Zadelhoff, Koen Peeters and Miek Zwamborn. These novels not only share a pronounced interest in memory, non-fiction and the supposedly non-commercial space of the museum, but also in objects as diverse as modernist chairs, ethnic baskets and uncaring stones. A closer look at these objects demonstrates that material culture is not just important for readers interested in nineteenth-century interiors, as the representation of ‘object cultures’ can also be used to establish, complicate and unwork our ideas about topics like modernist architecture, postcolonial trauma and planetary history.

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© Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde | ISSN (print): 0040-7550 | eISSN (online): 2212-0521