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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.


The timetable is available on the Arts and Culture and the Resma Literary Studies website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Classes 13 × 3: 39 hours

  • Preparation: 39 hours

  • Mid-term paper: 40 hours

  • Oral presentation: 16 hours

  • Reading list: 66 hours

  • Final paper: 80 hours

Assessment method

  • Mid-term paper (max. 2000 words) (20%)

  • Oral presentation (10 %)

  • Final paper (max. 3500 words) (70%)

ResMa students that take this course will write midterm and final papers that reflect the demands of the Research Master. That is, they will have to formulate more complex and original research questions than the MA students and include a critical positioning towards the state of the art of its subject.


Mid-term paper: 20%
Oral presentation: 10%
Final paper: 70%

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


Re-examination via the final paper


Blackboard will be used for:

  • To inform students

  • Post assignments, texts and visual material

Reading list

  • 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


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact information

Prof. dr. C.J.M.Zijlmans
Prof. dr. E.J. van Alphen