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Rick Honings appointed Scaliger professor

Senior lecturer Rick Honings has been appointed Scaliger professor with effect from 1 July 2020. In the coming years his focus will be on promoting teaching and research on the Special Collections of the Leiden University Library. Honings succeeds book historian Erik Kwakkel, who held this chair until 2018.

As a student, Honings spent much of his time in the study room of the Special Collections: ‘When I was doing my bachelor’s in Dutch language, I made the national news when I “discovered” an as yet unpublished and relatively unknown travel account by François HaverSchmidt,’ Honings explained. ‘The lectures given by Peter van Zonneveld in around 2005 taught me that there is still so much to discover and study in the Special Collections.’ 

Focus areas

Honings is interested in the Special Collections in a broad sense, and uses the collections extensively for his research. In the coming years he intends to focus on two areas that have emerged from his own research interests and expertise: travel writing from the colonial collections of the Asian Library and the eighteenth and nineteenth-century collections. 

‘In 2019, the NWO honoured my Vidi project Voicing the Colony. Travelers in the Dutch East Indies 1800-1945, which dealt with colonial travel writing,’ Honings says. ‘Today, when the Netherlands is engaging in processing its colonial past, these are a particularly valuable and crucial research source. Together with Javanese specialist Dr Judith Bosnak, a postdoc in my project, and PhD candidate Nick Tomberge, I intend to examine and open up this largely unknown and unpublished material from Dutch and Indonesian travellers so that it can be accessed by a broader public. 

The eighteenth and nineteenth-century collections house archives of all kinds of societies, but also works by different authors, including Nicolaas Beets. Honings: ‘Beets’ archive is a real treasure trove that has never been systematically studied. The precision with which Beets documented his life makes him a true chronicler of the nineteenth century.’  

A great honour

‘It is a great honour for me to be invited to hold the Scaliger chair, following in the footsteps of W.P. Gerritsen, Harm Beukers and Erik Kwakkel,’ says Honings. ‘I am looking forward to working with staff from the University Library and organising activities and projects focusing specifically on the library. I’m also looking forward to meeting the Scaliger fellows who visit Leiden every year. And, on top of that, it’s a privilege to take students – and if at all possible, secondary school pupils too - along with me on a journey through the treasures of the Special Collections. I’m hoping that PhD candidates will be inspired to focus their research on this collection.’

Research and teaching

Besides his Scaliger professorship, Honings is also working on his research projects as well as lecturing in the BA in Dutch Studies/Nederlandkunde. He is the chair of this programme. Honings: ‘Because my research is so closely connected with the Special Collections, my work for the Scaliger chair and my other activities complement one another. I’m also planning to give more demonstration lectures to show students some of the fantastic material that is kept in Leiden.’ 

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About Rick Honings
Rick Honings obtained his PhD at Leiden University in 2011. Immediately after this he was awarded a Niels Stensen Fellowship, which allowed him to carry out research for a year at Freie Universität in Berlin. He was then offered a teaching appointment in Leiden, and in 2012 he was awarded an NWO Veni grant for the project The Poet as Pop Star. Literary Celebrity in the Netherlands. In 2015, he became a lecturer in Modern Dutch Literature, and in 2019 he was appointed senior lecturer. In the same year he received an NWO subsidy for his project Voicing the Colony. Travelers in the Dutch East Indies 1800-1945 on the theme of colonial travel writing. Honings already has a large number of publications to his name. 

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