In Praise of Ambiguity

Erasmus, Huizinga and the Seriousness of Play

Willem Otterspeer

In Praise of Ambiguity

Willem Otterspeer

Distributed for Leiden University Press

96 pages | 5 x 8 | © 2018
Paper $19.50 ISBN: 9789087283100 Published October 2018 For sale only in the United States, its dependencies, the Philippines, and Canada

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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