Bieneke Haitjema reports from Amsterdam:
“Looking back at last year’s newsletter, we reported on the addition of a number of Dutch Culture courses in our course offerings and how one of them, a course on the history of Amsterdam, had just been approved for Gen Ed accreditation. Needless to say that the accreditation helped with the enrollment, hence the course, which was taught in the fall semester of 2017, was filled to capacity. It was rewarding to learn that after the class had ended, there were several students who were inspired to go to the Netherlands to further explore Amsterdam’s DNA on location.
One of those students was Matthew Kramer, who, prior to his trip reported to me that ‘he was very much looking forward to seeing all of the historic places he had been so lucky to learn about in the course.’
Teaching this course has impacted me on a personal level too. I enjoyed becoming reacquainted with this unique city and in preparing for the class I got to review many fascinating articles and books about the city’s successively changing political, demographical, and cultural landscapes. One of those books is the historical novel The Coffee Trader by David Liss, a book I can highly recommend. A particularly good find for me was a book with a collection of poetry about Amsterdam, published in 2013 on the occasion of the 4th centennial celebration of the famous Amsterdam canal ring. These poems provide insight into Amsterdam’s spirit of enterprise, civic virtue, creativity and freedom of thought over the past 400 years. In preparation for a poetry workshop in the Netherlands, I’m working on an English translation of a number of these poems, a task quite challenging as there are numerous words or phrases denoting objects, facts, and phenomena that are deeply and uniquely rooted in the Dutch culture, and that have no equivalent in the English speaking culture. A poetic challenge for sure.”