posted September 4, 2008

Book Compiles Papers from Dutch-American Conference

The Van Raalte Institute at Hope College selected an exceedingly appropriate volume to be the first published through the program's new Van Raalte Press:  papers that were featured during the biennial conference of the Association for the Advancement of Dutch-American Studies (AADAS) held on campus last summer.

Titled "Dutch-American Arts and Letters in Historical Perspective," the 234-page softcover book features 17 papers from the June 2007 conference and was published in August of this year.  The book was edited by Robert P. Swierenga, Jacob E. Nyenhuis and Nella Kennedy, all of whom are on the staff of the Van Raalte Institute and were also among the conference's presenters.

"The Van Raalte Institute's decision to establish a press as an additional means of publishing the work of researchers into Dutch-American and local history coincided very well with the opportunity to present papers from last summer's conference," said Nyenhuis, who is director of the institute.  "With its focus on Dutch-American arts and letters, this volume fits very nicely into the mission of the institute."

Held on June 7-9, 2007, the conference examined the ethnic literature and art of Dutch immigrants and their descendants in North America.  The event featured presentations on a variety of topics by some two dozen scholars, artists and authors, and drew participants from around the country, as well as from Canada and the Netherlands.

The papers presented in the book are grouped into five sections:  artists, writers, writings, journalists and imagery.  The subjects primarily cover the period since the Midwest Dutch immigration of the middle 19th century, and range from local figures and situations to individuals and events to across the U.S. and abroad.  The authors include scholars based locally, elsewhere in the U.S. and in the Netherlands.

The chapters and their authors are:  "Painter Cornelis Zwaan: Betwixt Laren and Detroit," by Nella Kennedy; "Stained Glass Artistry of John Vander Burgh," by Jacob E. Nyenhuis; "Meindert DeJong: Two Childhoods, One Literary Career in Two Worlds," by Richard Harms; "Arnold Mulder as a Dutch-American Novelist," by Michael Douma; "Yankee Dutch Literature as a Marker of Acculturation," by Jaap Van Marle; "Poetry of Theologian Geerhardus Vos," by George Harinck; "Henry Van Andel's Dutch Grammar Books and the Language Problem," by Herman J. DeVries Jr.; "Mysteries Go Dutch," by Jeanne Jacobson; "Disillusionment of Dutch Immigrant Andries Wormser," by Peter Ester; "Lourens Van Bergeijk's Pamphlet Defense of Hendrik P. Scholte," by Harvey Noordsy; "Reading Culture and Ethnicity in Dutch-American Reformed Pietism," by John Exalto; "Interpreting the Writings of the Van den Burgh Family," by Suzanne Sinke; "Press Censorship: Albertus C. Van Raalte and Hermanus Doesburg of 'De Hollander,'" by Robert P. Swierenga; "'De Volksvriend' and Dutch-American Connections," by Robert Schoone-Jongen; "Paul De Kruif: Medical Conscience of America," by Jan Peter Verhave; "Public Historical Imagery in Pella, Iowa," by Lisa Zylstra; and "Staging the Past: Historical Pageantry in the Dutch-American Community of West Michigan," by David Zwart.

The book is dedicated to Dr. Elton J. Bruins, who is the Philip Phelps Jr. Research Professor and founding director, emeritus, of the Van Raalte Institute, who was one of the founders and an ardent promoter of AADAS.  The three co-editors presented the book to Bruins on behalf of the AADAS board of directors recently at the Theil Research Center.  Bruins is also the Evert J. and Hattie E. Blekkink Professor Emeritus of Religion at Hope, where he taught from 1966 until retiring in 1992.

Formed in 1979, AADAS seeks "to encourage research and nurture a continuing interest in the history, life, and culture of the Dutch in North America."  The association has sponsored its biennial conferences since 1981 to stimulate active scholarship and facilitate the exchange of ideas and research projects.

The Van Raalte Institute is located in the Theil Research Center at 9 E. 10th St. and specializes in scholarly research and writing on immigration and the contributions of the Dutch and their descendants in the United States.  The institute is also dedicated to the study of the history of all the people who have comprised the community of Holland throughout its history.

Scholars affiliated with the Van Raalte Institute have published 27 books since the institute was established in 1994, most through the Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, but also through university presses and other publishers.  The Historical Series itself has published 58 books under the guidance of its founding general editor, Dr. Donald J. Bruggink, who is the James A.H. Cornell Professor of Historical Theology Emeritus at Western Theological Seminary and, since 2003, senior research fellow of the Van Raalte Institute.  Nyenhuis noted that the institute established the Van Raalte Press to provide an additional means of disseminating work on local and Dutch-American history.

Copies of "Dutch-American Arts and Letters in Historical Perspective" cost $22.50, and a limited number are available through the institute, which is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be called at (616) 395-7678.