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Literature and Theory: Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, Butler


Admission requirements

No extra requirements.


The era of structuralism, followed by that of poststructuralism and the ´cultural turn´, has yielded a large repertoire of new critical terms and approaches. As a result, concepts such as ‘the reality effect’, ‘the death of the author’, ‘episteme’, ‘the writerly text’ (as opposed to ‘the readerly text’), ‘logocentrism’, ‘gender performativity’, as well as the method of ‘discourse analysis’ are today common currency among academics. Unfortunately this development has also entailed a loss in critical momentum. After all, few take the trouble to read the thinkers to whom we owe these concepts and methods: Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler. This is not to say that their work has become outdated or devalued. Quite the contrary: their ideas have become generally accepted, albeit in a familiarized form.
To counter this tendency, we propose to go back to the authors themselves. Our first purpose in doing so will be to become acquainted with (a selection of) their original texts and breathe new life into them. In addition, we will try to establish what these texts still have to offer to the humanities in general, and to literary studies in particular.

Course objectives

This course aims at providing knowledge of, and insight into, the work of four major theoretical thinkers who have played a major role in literature and cultural studies over the past decades



Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Mid-term assignment (30%); paper (70%).


Blackboard in use

Reading list

To be announced


Students have to apply for this course with the registration system of the university uSis.
General information about registration with uSis you can find here in Dutch and in English

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

With the lecturers dr. M.J.A.Kasten and dr. P.Verstraten.