A view from abroad: Ingrid Tieken at Clare Hall, Cambridge
Every year many Leiden lecturers and students visit an international university for the purposes of research or study. In the coming newsletters a different Leiden scholar will give his or her view from abroad.
What was your motivation for choosing Clare Hall, Cambridge?
'I have always regretted not spending a year in England when I was a student, so I decided to put that right during my teaching-free semester. My children have now left home, my husband was able to join me in Cambridge, and my VICI project was finished. I was also very keen to work closely with English colleagues, rather than always having contact via email. So, Cambridge it was, and Clare Hall in particular thanks to a colleague at Cambridge who was able to see that my application was considered, even though the deadline had expired. And fortunately it was approved, possibly because Clare Hall is trying to achieve as broad a spread as possible in the fields where Visiting Fellows are working. I haven't come across many Humanities scholars here so far.'
What kind of a college is Clare Hall?
'Clare Hall is a graduate college, so the students here are doing a master's or are writing a PhD dissertation. I have given a couple of lectures and am writing a research proposal together with a colleague from the French department. Within the College, that's all that's expected of me, other than that I regularly eat here (paid from a special fund). I've also offered to give a lecture on my recent book, The Bishop’s Grammar'.
What are the differences and similarities between Cambridge and Leiden?
'Cambridge is what's known as a collegiate university, which means that all the students belong to one of the colleges. They live and study in the colleges, but the teaching takes place in the university. As a lecturer here you are employed by the university, and in most cases you are also a Fellow of one of the colleges. Clare Hall is an offshoot of Clare College, the second oldest college in Cambridge. The split took place in the mid-sixties, and as a result Clare is now less tied to the older traditions (such as your place during 'formal hall' being determined on the basis of seniority, which means you always sit next to the same people). Clare Hall has a reputation as being a very pleasant place to work, and that's certainly my experience. Added to which, it's right next door to the University Library.'
What are you working on during your time at Clare Hall?
'One of my reasons for coming here was the Library: it's one of the five deposit libraries in Great Britain. Another major benefit is that it's an 'open stack library' which means you have direct access to all parts of the collection. That's a huge advantage, although they do have their own catalogue system, which I found quite a challenge at the start. But, all in all, the Library is simply fantastic. After two or three weeks I made a particular discovery based on what I had been reading, that caused me to make some drastic changes to my research plans. I am now writing a very different book from my original plan, and I am already in contact with a publisher about it. That's another advantage of being in Cambridge: my contacts with publishers to date were always by email, but it's really special to be able to talk face to face with a publisher about your work. Work appointments, though, are usually made over lunch here, which I don't find very convenient for that kind of discussion. In this case, as for an appointment tomorrow to discuss the new research application we're preparing, I managed to meet over a cup of coffee, just as in the Netherlands, and outside in the sunshine.'