Prof.dr. W. (Wim) van Anrooij

  • Professor
  • Dutch language and culture
  • Medieval Dutch literature

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 2121
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Centre for the Arts in Society, Oude Nederlandse L&C
Office Address: Witte Singel-complex
P.N. van Eyckhof 1
2311 BV Leiden
Room number 1.01a
Personal Homepage:​lucas/​members-medieval-early-modern/​anrooijwvan-1.html

Prof.dr. Wim van Anrooij's research focuses on medieval Dutch literature.


With some 13,000 medieval manuscripts and an even larger number of incunabula and post-incunabula, Middle Dutch literature (in the sense of everything that has been written – not restricted to works of literature) is an interesting and broad field of study. With the Middle Dutch language as a starting point and the heritage of Romanticism, we run the risk of a too nationalistic orientation of our research. Middle Dutch literature, however, is part of a larger European and - at certain periods in its history - an even broader tradition. My approach to literature is international, historical and interdisciplinary.

(1) Poetry-writing clerks in the Middle Ages. Urbanisation and the increase in literacy in Europe created the need for town clerks who were able to write. Such scribes had already been known in Italy for some time. Elsewhere, this office developed  from the second half of the thirteenth century. Apart from Italy, literate town clerks in the Netherlands, the Rhine area and Northern Germany were among the earliest in Europe. They were often also active as notaries public, headmasters and in similar offices. With their historiographic and didactic texts, which were often legal in content and in part related to the iconography in and around the town halls, they helped to break down the dominant epic genre, thus contributing to the renewal of the literary tradition.

(2) Printed Middle Dutch chivalric romances in a European context. From approximately 1480, scores of Middle Dutch chivalric romances appeared in print. Apart from adaptations of older Middle Dutch rhyming texts, these included translations from French, German, English and Spanish. Besides Dutch texts, texts printed in French also appeared in the Netherlands. Middle Dutch texts were translated into English and German. The printed chivalric romances continued to be popular among the nobility and citizens well into the seventeenth century. A variety of texts were printed up to the nineteenth century. How was this literary situation related to the European tradition and how - considering the continued effect of chivalric culture deriving from the Burgundy and Habsburg circles - was its success connected to the ideals of medieval chivalry and the mentality of bourgeois public groups?

(3) Couperus and the Middle Ages. Couperus had a strong fascination for antiquity.  This is clearly visible in the wealth of his works and in the extensive research that has been carried out into his treatment of Greek and Roman history. His profound love of the Middle Ages is a well-preserved secret.  It is well known that Couperus with Het Zwevende Schaakbord (1917/1918) created a modern version of the Roman van Walewein, but it comes as a surprise to many readers that De Ongelukkige (1913/1915) is set at the time of the fall of Grenada (1493). In his earliest works, Couperus is inspired by the fourteenth century writer of chronicles, Froissart, and he versifies on Lancelot and Guinevere. The mysterious magician Merlin makes an appearence in countless short stories and serials, and during his stays in Spain or Italy, Couperus dreams of the medieval past.  Where did Couperus’ love of the Middle Ages come from? And where in his work did he give this its creative expression?

Curriculum vitae

Wim van Anrooij (1957) studied Dutch language and Literature at Leiden University (1977-1984). He worked as a university lecturer at the Dutch Department of Utrecht University for a year (1988-1989), following which he took up an equivalent appointment at Leiden University. In 1990 he obtained his PhD degree with his dissertation: Spiegel van ridderschap, heraut Gelre en zijn ereredes (Amsterdam 1990). From 1989 to 2002 he was actively involved as a researcher in the Pioneer project on Dutch Literature and Culture in the Middle Ages (NLCM), supervised by Professor Dr F.P. van Oostrom. He founded Queeste, a magazine on medieval literature in the Netherlands and from the onset was a member of the project committee of the Medieval miscellanies of the Netherlands (Huygens Institute/ Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences). After obtaining a NIAS fellowship (Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study) (1995-1996), Helden van weleer, De Negen Besten in de Nederlanden (1300- 1700) appeared (Amsterdam 1997). In 2002, he wrote the catalogue Floris V door edelen vermoord, Beeldvorming sedert 1296 for the exhibition of the same name held in the Leiden University Library. In 2004 he received the Van Gelder medal. From 2004 to 2007 he has been Director of Pallas, the Institute for historical, art historical and literary studies of Leiden University. In 2004, he was appointed Professor of Dutch Literature up to the Romantic period.  

Key publications

W. van Anrooij, Spiegel van ridderschap. Heraut Gelre en zijn ereredes, Amsterdam 1990, Nederlandse literatuur en cultuur in de Middeleeuwen 1.

W. van Anrooij, ‘Heralds, Knights and Travelling’, E. Kooper (ed.),  Medieval Dutch Literature in its European Context. Cambridge 1994, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 21, 46-61.

W. van Anrooij, Helden van weleer. De Negen Besten in de Nederlanden (1300-1700). Amsterdam 1997.

W. van Anrooij, ‘Maerlant, Boendale oder Velthem? Mögliche Quellen der Karlmeinet-Kompilation’, V. Honemann, H. Tervooren, C. Albers [etc.] (eds.), Sprache und Literatur des Mittelalters in den ‘nideren landen’. Gedenkschrift für Hartmut Beckers. Köln [etc.] 1999, Niederdeutsche Studien 44, 9-20.

W. van Anrooij, D. Hogenelst en G. Warnar (eds.), Der vaderen boek. Beoefenaren van de studie der Middelnederlandse letterkunde. Studies voor Frits van Oostrom ter gelegenheid van diens vijftigste verjaardag. Amsterdam 2003.

Last Modified: 10-12-2015