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Literature and Theory: Foucault, Butler and Zizek


Admission 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 ‘episteme,’ ‘performativity’, and ‘the real,’ as well as methods such as ‘discourse analysis’ are today common currency among academics. Unfortunately this development has also entailed a loss in critical momentum. After all, we do not always take the trouble to read the thinkers to whom we owe these concepts and methods: Michel Foucault, Judith Butler and Slavoj Zizek. The result is that 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 by reading them carefully and slowly. 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

Guided discussion assignments; mid-term assignment (30%); paper (70%).


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

For information please contact the lecturers, Yasco Horsman and Madeleine Kasten