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From Aristotle to Žižek: Approaches to Cultural Analysis


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


This course provides an overview of the different approaches and theories in cultural theory from classical antiquity until today. The subjects treated include classical poetics, phenomenology, Marxism, formalism, reader-response theory and surface reading, psychoanalysis, structuralism and semiotics, deconstruction and poststructuralism, feminism and queer theory, cultural analysis, transnationalism and postcolonial studies, and aesthetics and politics.

Course objectives

In this course students are made familiar with the most important theoretical approaches to cultural analysis, each of which offers a different perspective on the object under analysis. . In addition, students gain insight into the historical development of these different approaches and the ways in which they relate to one another. The reading material is entirely made up of texts written by the theorists themselves and comprises a number of classics. Students are encouraged to engage with these texts in a personal way, exploring their strengths and limitations by applying them to literary texts as well as film and visual art.
On completion of this course students are able to

  • Engage with these approaches critically to analyse literary texts, films, and visual art works, both in classroom discussion and in writing;

  • Address specific questions and problems relative to the approaches in question;

  • Discuss and reflect on the comparative strengths and limitations of the different approaches, both individually and in collaboration;

  • Reflect critically on their own position as researchers in the field of cultural analysis;

  • Set up a research project (final paper) independently, collect and assess sources, present their project orally, and offer peer feedback.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method


  • Weekly reading and discussion assignments;
  • Participation in a concluding research symposium;
  • Two brief writing assignments;
  • Midterm writing assignment in collaboration with a fellow student;
  • Final paper.  

    ResMa students that take this course will write a paper that reflects the demands of the Research Master. That is, they will have to formulate more complex and original research questions than the MA students, include a critical positioning towards the state of the art of its subject, and produce a longer paper (7000 words including bibliography instead of 5000 words).


  • Two brief assignments: 10% each
  • Midterm writing assignment: 20%
  • Final paper: 60%  

    The final grade is the weighted average of the writing assignments.
    Active participation in classroom discussions and the symposium is a condition for completing the course.


Re-examination via a rewritten version of the final paper.

Inspection and feedback

Once student’s assignments are assessed, students are welcome to make an appointment with the instructor in order to discuss their results.

Reading list

  • Vincent B. Leitch et al. (eds.), The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Third edition. New York and London: Norton, 2018;

  • Additional material (literature, films, visual art) to be announced.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. M.J.A. Kasten