From a cultural, political and literary perspective, the Low Countries have a
claim to be the major cultural entrepôt of early modern Europe, part and
parcel of the global mercantile pre-eminence of the United Provinces.
Migration from the southern Netherlands into the Dutch republic in the
north, and from elsewhere in northern Europe was extremely high at this
time. This essay explores the treatment of migration in one of the most
famous comedies of a reformed Dutch theatre, G. A. Bredero’s Spaanse
Brabander (1617), an adaptation of the Spanish prose fiction Lazarillo de
Tormes (1554), showing Bredero’s theatre as an analytical microscope of
migration as dominant cause of city formation. Further comparison is made
with Bredero’s Terentian play Moortje (1615), in which the presence of a
southern African is related to the early activity of Dutch merchants in that
region, and the presence of an African community in seventeenth-century
Amsterdam. Bredero’s powerful insights into the nature and consequences of
migration in his world of linguistic and racial confusion, hunger, bankrupt
merchants, beggar boys, prostitutes and sex offenders puts his drama in the
first rank of any literary canon, national or international.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book demonstrates that incest was representative of a range of interests crucial to writers of the Gothic, often women or homosexual men who adopted a critical stance in relation to the heteronormative patriarchal world. Incest, a sexual act associated with transgression, violations of power and violence, has readily been conflated with sexual violence in Gothic scholarship and consigned to one of two gendered plots. Sexuality, questions of ownership, inheritance, women's subjugation to male authority, laws of coverture and primogeniture and issues concerning gender roles pervade Gothic works from the mid-eighteenth century on. The incest thematic as employed by women writers in the early modern period is shown to be transgressively endogamic in Maureen Quilligan's excellent work on incest in Elizabethan England.
There are several problems that usually emerge in scholarship examining representations of father-daughter incest in the Gothic, even in works by scholars whose goal is to lay bare the feminist themes that are central to the genre. Principal among these is that representations of father-daughter incest often cause works to be placed in the gendered subgenre of Female Gothic and to be viewed through a lens predicated on this generic division. This chapter examines the incestuous relationships between fathers and daughters in Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, Ann Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest and Mary Shelley's Matilda and the texts' attendant scholarship. These three works have been selected in order to compare the way that incest is rendered in a representative chronology of Gothic texts beginning with what has been traditionally defined as the original Gothic novel.