front cover of The Autumn of the Middle Ages
The Autumn of the Middle Ages
Johan Huizinga
University of Chicago Press, 1996
"Here is the first full translation into English of one of the 20th century's few undoubted classics of history." —Washington Post Book World

The Autumn of the Middle Ages is Johan Huizinga's classic portrait of life, thought, and art in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century France and the Netherlands. Few who have read this book in English realize that The Waning of the Middle Ages, the only previous translation, is vastly different from the original Dutch, and incompatible will all other European-language translations.

For Huizinga, the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century marked not the birth of a dramatically new era in history—the Renaissance—but the fullest, ripest phase of medieval life and thought. However, his work was criticized both at home and in Europe for being "old-fashioned" and "too literary" when The Waning of the Middle Ages was first published in 1919. In the 1924 translation, Fritz Hopman adapted, reduced and altered the Dutch edition—softening Huizinga's passionate arguments, dulling his nuances, and eliminating theoretical passages. He dropped many passages Huizinga had quoted in their original old French. Additionally, chapters were rearranged, all references were dropped, and mistranslations were introduced.

This translation corrects such errors, recreating the second Dutch edition which represents Huizinga's thinking at its most important stage. Everything that was dropped or rearranged has been restored. Prose quotations appear in French, with translations preprinted at the bottom of the page, mistranslations have been corrected.

"The advantages of the new translation are so many. . . . It is one of the greatest, as well as one of the most enthralling, historical classics of the twentieth century, and everyone will surely want to read it in the form that was obviously intended by the author." —Francis Haskell, New York Review of Books

"A once pathbreaking piece of historical interpretation. . . . This new translation will no doubt bring Huizinga and his pioneering work back into the discussion of historical interpretation." —Rosamond McKitterick, New York Times Book Review

front cover of Autumntide of the Middle Ages
Autumntide of the Middle Ages
A study of forms of life and thought of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in France and the Low Countries
Johan Huizinga
Leiden University Press, 2024
This new English translation of Huizinga’s 'Autumntide of the Middle Ages' ('Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen') celebrates the centenary of a book that still ranks as one of the most perceptive and influential analyses of the late medieval period. 

front cover of In Praise of Ambiguity
In Praise of Ambiguity
Erasmus, Huizinga and the Seriousness of Play
Willem Otterspeer
Leiden University Press, 2018

In Praise of Ambiguity presents a discourse about the seriousness of play. Erasmus and Huizinga are its main subjects, their books In Praise of Folly (1511) and Homo Ludens (1938) its main texts. Though published more than four hundred years apart, Otterspeer treats those books as contemporaries and asks what they still have to say to us. The main theme of both books is the contrast between two attitudes of life: the conviction that each subject has two or more sides as opposed to the certainty that there is always only one side to the subject. It is relativism versus essentialism, play versus seriousness.

In these times of populism and fundamentalism, the relationship between play and seriousness is more significant than ever. Erasmus and Huizinga conceive a compromise as brilliant as it is paradoxical: turn seriousness into play, play into seriousness. Their solution is the life blood of literature. Literature is always paradoxical, always "true" and "not true' at the same time, both reality and fiction. Ambiguity is its home territory. Literature is the best answer to the purity and peremptoriness of prophets.


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Reading Huizinga
Willem Otterspeer
Amsterdam University Press, 2011

Johan Huizinga, the Dutch founding father of cultural history, ranks among the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. Perhaps best known is Huizinga’s revolutionary insight into the formative role of play in human culture, a theory he espoused in the celebrated Homo Ludens, which was published in 1938. For Huizinga, philology was the mother of all interpretive endeavors, reading and writing were part of a collective ritual that channeled human passion into beautiful forms, and passion remained the fundamental fact of human life. In this clear, engaging study, the renowned Dutch scholar Willem Otterspeer paints an original portrait of Huizinga in the context of interwar Europe—and shares his subject’s own hallmark passion for history.


front cover of The Waxing of the Middle Ages
The Waxing of the Middle Ages
Revisiting Late Medieval France
Charles-Louis Morand-Métivier
University of Delaware Press, 2023
Johan Huizinga’s much-loved and much-contested Autumn of the Middle Ages, first published in 1919, encouraged an image of the Late French Middle Ages as a flamboyant but empty period of decline and nostalgia. Many studies, particularly literary studies, have challenged Huizinga’s perceptions of individual works or genres. Still, the vision of the Late French and Burgundian Middle Ages as a sad transitional phase between the High Middle Ages and the Renaissance persists. Yet, a series of exceptionally significant cultural developments mark the period.

The Waxing of the Middle Ages sets out to provide a rich, complex, and diverse study of these developments and to reassert that late medieval France is crucial in its own right. The collection argues for an approach that views the late medieval period not as an afterthought, or a blind spot, but as a period that is key in understanding the fluidity of time, traditions, culture, and history. Each essay explores some “cultural form,” to borrow Huizinga’s expression, to expose the false divide that has dominated modern scholarship. 

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