Amsterdam University Press
Johan Huizinga, one of the founders of cultural history, ranks among the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. Published in the 1930s, his The Waning of the Middle Ages, Homo Ludens and Erasmus were immediately recognised as masterworks and widely translated. Perhaps the most influential is Huizinga’s study of the formative role of play in human culture in the celebrated Homo Ludens.
This engaging study by the renowned Dutch scholar Willem Otterspeer shows the same hallmark passion with which Huizinga immersed himself in history. For Huizinga, philology was the mother of all interpretative endeavour, the master skill from which all branches of humanities originate and to which they all ultimately return. Reading and writing were both part of a collective ritual that channeled human passion into beautiful forms, while passion, and how to master it, remained the fundamental fact of human life. Throughout this powerful analysis of Huizinga’s oeuvre, Otterspeer remains faithful to his main philosophical tenets, in which contrast and harmony, memory and desire, are the warp and weft of his work. And again, this is precisely what Otterspeer does. Reading and writing, passion and detachment, method and mysticism are here combined in a way that would have delighted Huizinga himself.
Willem Otterspeer is professor of history at Leiden University.