National images in transit

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Using a neglected case study, this essay questions the links between the rise and spread of historical fiction in nineteenth-century Europe, the use of national images, and the dissemination of an essentialist Romantic ideology of national character. It first examines various national stereotypes in Thomas Colley Grattan’s The Heiress of Bruges (1830), a novel set in the Low Countries around 1600. As they rely on different discourses on nationality and national character, Grattan’s national images turn out to be comparatively unstable. The essay then confirms this instability by contrasting the transformations of the novel’s hetero-images into auto-images in competing Belgian and Dutch translations, which appeared after the break-up of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in the 1830s.


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