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European Modernism


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Literary Studies, research master Literary Studies and the research MA Arts, Literature and Media (other relevant MA on request and if places available, please contact the study coordinator).


“European Modernism” is optional for students from all specialisation tracks in Literary Studies, and offers an overview of Modernism in theory and practice in four major Western European literatures : English, French, German, and Italian, from approx. 1890 to 1940. After a general introductory lecture, the texts of these literatures will be approached in blocks of 2- 3 classes as being part of a language-bound cultural (and socio-historical) context, but will also be studied as part of a European network with a long and fruitful creative tradition, as Modernism is noted for its international dynamics. Keywords of this period are, among others, “subjectivity”, ‘the unconscious”, “epistemology”, “urbanization”, “empire” and “technology”. Next to a focus on the formal and (at times highly) experimental aspects of Modernist texts, this literature will be studied in a larger context (developments in the fields of science and the arts, social and political developments). The course will end with a discussion of the legacy of Modernism.

Course objectives

  • students will have a thorough insight into the notion and theory of European Modernism;

  • students will have knowledge of a canonic corpus of European literary texts and of their interconnections;

  • students will have knowledge of the contemporary debate about Modernism;

  • students will be able to analyze and comment upon specific literary texts, using current theoretical approaches;

  • students will be able to present their acquired knowledge and understanding in oral interventions, in written assignments and in an end-of-term presentation.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Two-hour weekly seminar/ tutorial

Assessment method


  • Two written assignments (± 1,500- 2,000 words each)

  • End of term presentation

  • The course is divided into 4 blocks of 2- 3 weeks each

  • There will be one assignment during midterm week and one at the end of term
    For the Research Master students, one of the two written asignments should be a longer paper (3,500 words), which should also offer a substantial and sophisticated theoretical reflection on the topic.


  • Two written assignments: 80% (40% each)

  • Oral presentation: 20%


In case of an insufficient final grade, only one of the assignments may be revised.

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

  • Pericles Lewis, ed, The Cambridge Companion to European Modernism (2011); available electronically via UB Leiden

  • Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Norton Edition)

  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (Norton Edition)

  • Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz (Penguin) or the German original

  • Marcel Proust, The Way by Swann’s (In Search of Lost Time, vol. 1), transl. Lydia Davis, Penguin Books, 2003: parts I and III (‘Combray’ and “Place names: the name”) or the French original: Du côté de chez Swann (Garnier Flammarion)

  • Luigi Pirandello, The Late Mattia Pascal. Translated by William Weaver. Eridanos Press, c.1987 / Paperback – November 30, 2004 or in Dutch translation: Wijlen Mattia Pascal. Amsterdam : Coppens & Frenks, 2007 (or paperback, Singel Uitgevers)

  • Italo Svevo, Zeno's Conscience. Translated by William Weaver. New York: Vintage International, 2001; or in Dutch translation: Bekentenissen van Zeno, vertaald door Jenny Tuin. Athenaeum - Polak & van Gennep.

  • Peter Childs, Modernism (Routledge 2017)


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


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

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

Coordinator of studies:


The literary texts will be taught in the following order:
First block: Joyce, Woolf, Döblin;
Second block: Proust, Sarraute, Svevo, Pirandello.