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Methodological Concepts in Art and Literature


Admission requirements

Not applicable


Academic disciplines that focus on cultural objects (literature, visual arts, applied arts, cinema, etc.) time and again concentrate on the same aspects of cultural production and reception, such as the maker or producer of the work, the recipient of the work, the work or product in itself, the historical context of the work, the work as a representation of the world (referential function), etcetera. All of these different concepts give rise to specific methodological problems and lead to different approaches to the cultural object.

In this course, we will discuss a distinct cultural aspect or basic concept each week. In the first six weeks, we will look at the cultural object as a form of communication, guided by the various perspectives of the communication model. Following these six weeks, we will consider the cultural object as an action, focussing on the concept of performativity. We will also look at general basic concepts such as canon, genre, alterity and gender and diversity in relation to the notions of action and performativity.
Because it is sometimes difficult to discuss these concepts and approaches without being able to test them in relationship to works of art or literature that everybody knows, all students will read or see four works of art (selection will follow).
For each seminar, students prepare a reading assignment; they will present and discuss their findings during the seminar.

Course objectives

Students will gain knowledge of, and insight into central concepts related to the production, reception and action of cultural products; they must be able to use these concepts (in an analysis, for instance, or as part of a theoretical exploration) when they are confronted with a selection of art works that have been selected as our common ground; they must be able to understand the heuristic, semiotic and ideological underpinning of these concepts in different disciplines; and they will deepen their comparative or theoretical handling of cultural products, while working within different conceptual frameworks. Apart from these more theoretical points, students will also train their skills in oral presentation, group discussion and writing.


Check for schedules of courses and exams see Timetable

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Mid-term paper, oral presentation, final paper


Blackboard is used to inform students and to post assignments, texts, visual material.

Reading list

For the theoretical discussions we will use texts from:

  • Vincent B. Leitch (general editor), The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York/London: Norton & Company, 2001.

**Throughout the course we will use a novel, a film and visual art as key reference points for the discussions. Therefore students are required:

To read: Virginia Woolf – To the Lighthouse (1927)
To watch: Breaking the Waves (Lars von Trier, 1995)
And to visit: 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

For information contact the lecturer Dr. Peter Verstraten or Dr Anja Novak
or the Secretary’s office, Van Eyckhof 4/102c. E-mail:


For more information consult the website from the Institute for Cultural Disciplines