Huizinga Revisited

The British historian Lisa Jardine delivered the 39th Huizinga-Lecture at the Pieterskerk in Leiden on Friday 10 December, entitled The Afterlife of Homo Ludens: from Huizinga to Zemon Davis and beyond.

Noam Chomsky, Susan Sontag, Joseph Brodsky, George Steiner, Antonia Byatt, Nadine Gordimer, Carlos Fuentes were some of her predecessors on the pulpit of the Pieterskerk.

Fair play

Lisa Jardine (°1944) has a great interest in Dutch History. She published The Awful End of Prince William the Silent and Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland's Glory.

She stated in her Lecture that Johan Huizinga’s influence in England and the USA remains great. Especially Homo Ludens (1938) continues to fascinate. Culture originated from competition and play. Huizinga believed that real culture always demands fair play and fair play is nothing else than good faith. He who breaks the rules of the game, breaks culture itself.

According to Jardine there is a strong connection between Huizinga’s urgent plea for a humane and narrative form of writing history and the passion with which historians and critics today as Natalie Zemon Davis and Stephen Greenblatt state that it is possible to build a better now by scrupulous attention for the remains of the past in texts and documents.

A classic author

A day before the Lecture, Reading Huizinga (Amsterdam University Press) was presented in the same Leiden.

In this engaging study Willem Otterspeer, Professor of University History at Leiden University, focuses on Huizinga the writer.

“By his own simple definition, ‘to be classic means still to be read’, Huizinga is one of the Netherlands’ few classic authors.”

“In his historiography, Huizinga mixed passion and receptivity, mysticism and method. Better than anyone, he knew how to invest historical truth with the excitement of fiction. That which was gone – gone, forever – remained of value in the present, that which appeared to be a small detail contained a world of significance.”

Discover the man, reserved by temperament and full of passion, concealed beneath the mantle of learning. Admire the work, in which contrast and harmony, memory and desire, are the warp and weft.

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