Manifestations of the Flying Dutchman: On Materializing Ghosts and (Not) Remembering the Colonial Past

A. Andeweg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article investigates remediations of the Flying Dutchman legend - the story about a ghost ship doomed to sail the oceans forever - in English and Dutch sources from the nineteenth and twentieth century. It explains the popularity and wide dissemination of the Flying Dutchman by interpreting the story, firstly, within the context of Anglo-Dutch colonial competition and, secondly, within the context of new technological developments, paying particular attention to the moments when the Flying Dutchman seems to lose its spectral character and becomes a real object or person. Of the two interpretations of the spectre put forward here - staging colonial history versus staging technological advancement - , the second seems to be the more dominant throughout the history of continuous remediation and adaptation of the Flying Dutchman. When the ghost materializes, temporality is reversed: the focus shifts from the present's fraught relation to the past to the present's imagination of the future. In the dissemination of the figure itself however the colonial dimension is often still present.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-205
Number of pages19
JournalCultural History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015

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