Activity: Talk or presentation types › Oral presentation › Academic
When in the 60s neo-realistic Dutch writers such as K. Schippers, J. Bernlef, Armando and Hans Sleutelaar started to adopt the ready made-principle the literary establishment was shocked. Although these writers took inspiration from international artists, such as Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg, the application of the ‘ready made’ within (Dutch) literature was evaluated as ‘easy’, ‘lazy’, ‘just a joke’ and moreover ‘non artistic’ (see Mourits 2001).
Until today this reaction to the neo-realistic gesture pops up. Recently, critic Arjan Peters for example stated that Schippers was fooling his readers (de Volkskrant, 16/09/2017). Underneath this evaluation lies a strong believe in literature being different from reality; the idea that the artist – by means of his exceptional talent – can offer us an alternative reality. At the same time, this view is much contested by those who argue that literature should not be approached as something different from reality, but as a means to (critically) break into reality (see Vaessens 2009 and Van Rooden 2015).
Still, within this debate which in the Netherlands circles strongly around the notion of ‘engagement’, the neo-realistic gesture of the ‘ready made’ is much neglected. In my contribution I like to revisit the work of K. Schippers and Armando, two writers who are still active, and propose a different interpretation of their work within the current debate on literary engagement. As a guideline I like to take David Shields thought-provoking manifesto Reality Hunger (2010) in which Shields argues that a new literary model has arrived, one that builds heavily upon the ‘ready made’-principle and hence meets our deep need for reality in a high-tech, mediated world.