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Imagining Reconciliation in Literature, Art and Media: Early Modernity to the Present Day


Admission requirements

Admission to the research master Arts, Literature and Media. The course is also open to students in the MA in Literary Studies. Students in other MA programmes should contact the study coordinator.


During this course we will examine representations of interpersonal reconciliation in literature, art and media, from the early modern period to the present day. How have literary writers, painters, film directors and others imagined the ways in which people settle conflicts? Our literary case studies (which form our main focus) include: William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus; John Milton’s Paradise Lost (Books 10 and 11); Oscar Wilde’s
De Profundis; Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden; Joy Kogawa’s Obasan; and Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. We’ll also study a non-fiction work by the South African poet and academic Antjie Krog, Country of
My Skull. For our art and media-oriented case studies, we will examine visual representations of the parable of the Prodigal Son, the final episode of Ken Burns’ documentary series on the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and documentaries on political reconciliation in post-Civil War Liberia.

We will look at reconciliation scenes both in the intimate, domestic sphere (between parents and children, for example) and in more public, political contexts. Indeed, one of our analytical principles for the course is that all forms of reconciliation, include those that occur in intimate settings such as the family, have a political dimension. The research questions on which we will focus include: how do concepts of interpersonal reconciliation draw on theological language of divine forgiveness, and what consequences does this have? How should we understand the links between reconciliation and power? In relation to this, how does reconciliation interact with issues of gender, class and race? How should we understand the relation between reconciliation and remembrance? How have literary representations of reconciliation changed from early modernity to the present day?

This course is offered at the 600 level but can also be taken as a 500-level course, for example by students in the one-year MA in Literary Studies.

Course objectives

At the end of the course students will:

  • Be able to reflect analytically and theoretically on the nature of interpersonal reconciliation and conflict resolution, including its ethical and political dimensions;

  • Be able to reflect analytically and theoretically on literary and visual representations of interpersonal reconciliation, from early modernity to the present day, including their ethical and political dimensions;

  • Have deepened their ability to engage in informed academic dialogue and debate with others – especially, though not exclusively, on these issues;

  • Have further developed their academic presentation skills;

  • Have further developed their academic writing skills by means of a substantial research essay.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Classroom Presentation (25%)

  • Research essay (5,500 words) (75%)

Research MA students should analyse at least one literary work not on the reading list for this course. Their research essay should also offer substantial theoretical reflection on reconciliation and its representations in literature, art and media.


  • Classroom Presentation (25%)

  • Research essay (5,500 words) (75%)


Students who fail the course can submit a revised version of their research essay if their essay grade is at least a 5. If their essay grade is lower than a 5, they must write a new research essay on a new topic.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

**Note: **

The reading load for this course is substantial, so it’s advisable to read ahead.

J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace
Ariel Dorfman, Death and the Maiden
Joy Kogawa, Obasan
Antjie Krog, Country of My Skull
John Milton, Paradise Lost. Online edition at the Milton Reading Room:
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
William Shakespeare, Coriolanus. Any good recent edition (for example: Cambridge, Oxford, Arden III; contact the course convenor if in doubt).
Oscar Wilde, De Profundis.

In addition to these primary sources, we will read a number of scholarly articles and book chapters (downloadable via the online library catalogue); these will be announced in due course.
More info about our visual case studies will be included in the syllabus.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website

Registration À la carte education, Contract teaching and Exchange

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of À la carte education (without taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of Contract teaching (with taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.
For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal