The medium is the message

Historical heroes in Flemish lyrical dramas of the nineteenth century (1830-1914)


  • Adelheid Ceulemans


lyrical drama, nineteenth century, Flanders


This paper focuses on Flemish lyrical dramas of the nineteenth century with historical protagonists, both political figures and artists. It investigates how these lyrical dramas contributed to the discursive construction of a national, Belgian and a subnational, Flemish identity through the use (or manipulation) of the past, and how historical heroes were fit into nationalising strategies. Special attention is paid to the use of stereotypes and clich in characterising the historical protagonists, and to specific features of the lyrical dramas concerning style and content.

It is particularly interesting to investigate nationalising strategies and the functioning of historical heroes in those strategies in the genre of the lyrical drama, because of the broad and various audiences this popular genre reached, and because of its inherent interdisciplinary character. The integration of an oral art discipline (music) in a written (dramatic) text facilitates the transferal of a (nationalist) message and increases its impact. Furthermore, the genre of the lyrical drama has been notably understudied in scholarly research concerning Flemish music history and literary history of the nineteenth century.

Author Biography

Adelheid Ceulemans

Adelheid Ceulemans (1986) obtained her doctoral degree at the University of Antwerp (2013) with a dissertation about the nineteenth-century Flemish poet Theodore Van Ryswyck. Currently she is working as a researcher and assistant research coordination at the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp (Artesis Plantijn University College), within the research group Labo XIX&XX. She has published about the poetry of Guido Gezelle, Albrecht Rodenbach, Hendrik Conscience and Theodore Van Ryswyck and about Flemish lyrical drama and opera. Her study about Flemish music theatre works of the nineteenth century (University Press Antwerp, 2010) has been awarded the Leon Elautprijs of the Royal Academy of Dutch Language and Literature (KANTL). She is editor of the journal FORUM+ for Research and Arts and member of the editorial board of Wetenschappelijke tijdingen.



How to Cite

Ceulemans, A. (2015). The medium is the message: Historical heroes in Flemish lyrical dramas of the nineteenth century (1830-1914). Studies on National Movements (SNM), 3. Retrieved from




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