Masterclass ‘Testimony’ – Prof. Rosanne Kennedy (Australian National University)

Date: Tuesday 13 June, 13:30-15:30
Location: Utrecht University, Drift 25, room 003
Credits: 1 EC

Testimony, a concept that has an ancient heritage, has in the past thirty years become a cultural keyword as well as an important practice in literary, legal and human rights contexts. This masterclass will introduce students to range of approaches to testimony, including literary, psychoanalytic, postcolonial, feminist, anthropological and legal. We will consider a number of sites, including memoir, literature, law courts and transitional justice, in which testimony is produced, framed and judged. We will consider key issues such as the framing of testimony and questions of truth, authenticity, interpretation, and evidence. If time permits, we will consider issues raised by the production and circulation of testimony, for instance, in digital archives and film.

Contemporary Case Studies:

  • Didier Fassin, “The Humanitarian Politics of Testimony: Subjectification through Trauma in the Israeli-Palestinian-Conflict,” Cultural Anthropology 23.3 (2008): read 531-535.
  • Gilmore, Leigh. “Introduction.” Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say about Their Lives. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.
  • Kennedy, Rosanne. 2014, ‘Moving Testimony: Human Rights, Palestinian Memory, and the Transnational Public Sphere’, in Chiara De Cesari and Ann Rigney (ed.), Transnational Memory Circulation, Articulation, Scales, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and Boston, pp. 51-78.
  • Whitlock, Gillian. “The Ends of Testimony.” Postcolonial Life Narratives: Testimonial Transactions, Oxford University Press, pp. 168-199.
  • Suggested viewing: Joshua Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing

Background Reading:

  • Giorgio Agamben, The Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. New York: Zone Books, 1999. pp. TBC
  • John Beverley, Testimonio: On the Politics of Truth (2004). pp. TBC
  • Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. TBC
  • Dori Laub, “Bearing Witness of the Vicissitudes of Listening, in Testimony” in Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History.
  • Peters, Julie Stone (2005) “”Literature,” the “Rights of Man,” and Narratives of Atrocity: Historical Backgrounds to the Culture of Testimony,” Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 17(2).
  • Annette Wieviorka, The Era of the Witness, trans. Jared Stark (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2006). pp. TBC

Dr. Rosanne Kennedy is Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality & Culture at the Australian National University. Professor Kennedy’s research focuses on trauma, memory, and witnessing in Australia and transnational contexts; life-writing studies; biography; and human rights and justice issues. Her recent work includes “Moving Testimony: Human Rights, Palestinian Memory, and the Transnational Public Sphere” (in Transnational Memory: Circulation, Articulation, Scales; de Gruyter, 2014) and “Memory, History and the Law: Testimony and Collective Memory in Holocaust and Stolen Generations Trials” (in Memory and History: Understanding Memory as Source and Subject; Routledge, 2013)

This masterclass, in conjunction with attendance at the Mediated Testimony Sympoisum at Utrecht University on 12 June (, will contribute 1 EC to RMA training offered by the OSL. To register for the masterclass, please email dr Anna Poletti (a.l.poletti[at] and (osl-fgw[at]
PDFs of the readings will be made available to registered masterclass participants.

Course – Computational Literary Studies

Dates: April 3, 10 and 24, May 1, 8, and 15, 2017
Time: 15.00-18.00 hrs.
Venue: University of Amsterdam, OMHP C 2.23, Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, Amsterdam (NOTE: Changed Venue)
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa Students, OSL members will have first access
Organiser: prof. Karina van Dalen-Oskam (UvA)
ECTS: 3-6

THE SEMINAR IS FULLY BOOKED, please send us an e-mail with your name, university and research school. We will put you on our waiting list.

Scholars working in computational literary studies make use of computer software that helps them to analyze digital textual data. Software can support the exploration of a much larger amount of data in systematic ways than was possible before. In this course, students will get introduced to the most important current approaches in computational literary studies, ranging from the analysis of style and methods for the verification and attribution of authorship to various forms of ‘distant reading’ and discourse analysis.

The first part of the course explores the new horizons and possibilities as well as the limitations of computational approaches in literary studies. Several computational tools will be demonstrated such as concordance software that can be used for discourse analytical approaches and specialized R-scripts for authorship attribution and stylistic analysis. The questions to be addressed in the first four sessions of the seminar include: How can different authors be distinguished from each other using computational tools? In which ways do their writing styles exactly differ? What are the options for computer-assisted discourse analysis? What kinds of reasoning and logic play a role when computational tools are applied and what are their epistemological implications? How can be evaluate the results of the new methods and techniques?

The second part of the course is optional and more practical. In two workshop-like meetings students will conduct small research projects of their own. In this way, they will learn to use the computational tools themselves and gain practical experience with their possibilities and limitations. The research projects can be devoted to the cases presented in the first part of the course but also be proposed by the students themselves.

Course objectives:

  • Students learn to employ empirical and computational methods in literary studies, including the selection of tools and the reflection on their possibilities and limitations.
  • Students get an overview of international discussions in the fields of computational literary studies and digital humanities and learn to relate their research to these debates.
  • Students learn to reflect on the relation of research questions and digital methods in literary studies.


  • April 3: Introduction
  • April 10: Authorship attribution, verification, and profiling
  • April 24: Computational analysis of literary style
  • May 1: From style to discourse analysis
  • May 8 and 15: Workshop tools (bring your own laptop)


Students receive 3 EC for active participation (readings and small assignments) in the first four meetings and an additional 3 EC for participation in the workshops and the preparation of a final assignment (= paper of 3000 words).

For more information please contact dr Stephan Besser (


Masterclass with Joep Leerssen and Ann Rigney on Interscalar Memories: Urbi et Orbi

Royal Netherlands Institute Rome
1 – 12 June, 2017

deadline for applications: 1 April 2017

Format and objectives In the early development of cultural memory studies, the national framework seemed the ‘natural’ one for studying the production of shared memory, and its relation to collective identity. Recently this methodological nationalism has been challenged on a number of grounds, not least of them being its inability to capture the entanglements of today’s globalised society. The national framework is still a very important one for memory and identity, not least because of the role of nation-based heritage institutions; but it has long ceased to have the privileged place it once enjoyed. A multiscalar analysis is needed, which would account for the production and circulation of memory at scales smaller than that of nations (families, cities) but also at scales that transcend national boundaries (regional, European, diasporic).

The aim of this masterclass is to explore theoretically, historically, and empirically what is to be gained from such a multi-scalar approach and to reflect critically on how we could use it to get a better grasp both of the multiplicity of narratives at work in society and of the frictions between them. A key aspect of our exploration will be the interplay between the memory materialized in localities and the role of the media in circulating cultural representations which carry that memory to people elsewhere. The palimpsestic city of Rome will offer an ideal observation point for studying the interplay between the local and the global, the city and the world, over a longer period.

The masterclass combines lectures, seminar sessions and site visits. In the lectures and seminars we will discuss key theoretical and methodological issues, and survey particular frameworks of memory, each tethered to a particular “remembrance Rome”. These include: the Imperial city (Napoleon to Mussolini and Hollywood epics); the papacy’s religious capital (after the restoration of Pius VII); the national capital (after 1871); the Holocaust and World War II; the hub of activism, exiles and migrants. Cinematographic thematizations of Rome as an imperial, metropolitan, national or global city, and as a mnemonic space will also be included.

The site visits will be to landmarks that can be “read” as lieux de mémoire across multiscalar frames (e.g. the Vittorio Emmanuele Monument and the Ardeatine Caves ). At the same time, the question will be confronted how these multiscalar memories coexist, competing for bandwidth in the limited, over-memorized space of a single (unique) city.

Course information

The Masterclass is organised by and hosted at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR), in conjunction with the Huizinga Institute. Research Institute and Graduate School for Cultural History, and the Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies (OSL).

Staff: KNIR-fellow prof.dr. Joep Leerssen (University of Amsterdam), Knir-fellow prof.dr. Ann Rigney (Utrecht University), in conjunction with prof. dr Harald Hendrix (KNIR).

This masterclass is Leerssen/Rigney’s second collaborative research project after their Commemorating writers in 19th-century Europe: Nation-Building and Centenary Fever (Palgrave, 2014).

Credits: 6 ects, assigned upon completion of the final essay.
Languages used in the Masterclass: English.
Assessment: on-site oral presentations, active contribution to plenary discussions, assignments and a final essay to be submitted after the stay in Rome.

Admission The Masterclass is open to a maximum of 10 selected students at (R)MA or PhD-level, as well as to early career researchers in the humanities and beyond.


Tuition is free for selected participants. Dutch participants may be eligible for KNIR bursaries covering all expenses (see below). Other participants are required to cover their stay in the KNIR at their own expenses.

Bursaries for Dutch participants

Selected participants from KNIR partner universities (Universiteit van Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit, Universiteit Leiden, Universiteit Utrecht, Radboud Universiteit, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen) are eligible for KNIR bursaries, comprising all expenses related to the Masterclass (tuition, lodging in Rome, conference fees, etc.). Personal expenses, including meals, are not included. Students receive a € 100 reimbursement of their expenses for travelling to Rome after submission of their final essay.


Applications are welcome until 1 April 2017. Notice on acceptance will follow before 15 April 2017. This will include information on the selection for KNIR bursaries. Applicants need to submit an application letter containing information on their motivation, their C.V. and on the marks obtained in their current programme. Candidates can apply by filling out the application form and sending it, together with the application letter and their research statement, to: Download the application form at .

Facilities in Rome

All participants will be housed at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome’s Villa Borghese Park. From there, it is only a short walk to the historical centre of Rome. The KNIR accommodation consists of shared bedrooms and bathrooms, and includes a living and dining space, a large kitchen, washing machine and wireless internet. All residents have 24/7 access to the library and gardens of the Royal Netherlands Institute.

Contact information Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome Via Omero 10-12 00197 ROMA
Phone: (0039)063269621

OSL Research Day

INVITATION to the 2nd OSL Research Day

April 7, 2017
University Library Amsterdam

The second OSL Research day will take place on April 7, 2017 in Amsterdam (13:00-18:30). We invite scholars from all Dutch universities to explore affinities in their research interests and possibilities for future collaboration around a number of research topics (mentioned below). More topics can be added to the list, in particular by participants who already have a group of future collaborators in mind. In that case please contact dr Brigitte Adriaensen:

The Research Day hopes to stimulate more collaboration between literary scholars and existing research groups in the Netherlands. Although literature is the main scope of the OSL Research School, we explicitly encourage interdisciplinary research.


The Research Day will start with the presentation of the 2016 OSL Awards to the winners Emy Koopman and Daan Rutten and a lecture by Pieter Vermeulen (KU Leuven) on ‘Five Propositons on Anthropocene Writing”. Pieter’s broad-ranging and innovative research on affect, memory and the anthropocene is closely related to various topics that will be discussed in parallel sessions during the afternoon (cf. Pieter Vermeulen. Contemporary Literature and the End of the Novel: Creature, Affect and Form, 2015; Memory Unbound: Tracing the Dynamics of Memory Studies, ed. with Lucy Bond & Stef Craps, 2016; ‘“The Sea, not the Ocean”: Anthropocene Fiction and the Memory of (Non)human Life,’ in press).

In these sessions, the participants will discuss their own research projects and interests and explore possibilities for collaboration. These sessions take 1.5 hour each, and are open to all researchers. Participants can register before March 15 for two discussion groups of 1.5 hour each, by sending an email to the session convenor indicated below. We invite session convenors to send a list with participants and a short abstract of the session content (max. 300 words) by March 20 to B. Adriaensen.

Seed Money

The organization of the sessions is flexible and is up to the main organizers of each session. The sessions can be envisaged as a match making event or as a round table discussion in which ongoing or future research projects are presented. We would explicitly like to invite you to think about future collaborations with the members of your session, i.e. the planning of symposia, book publications, joint funding applications (NWO, ERC etc.) or the organization of OSL budgeted academic events such as the Ravenstein Seminar in January 2019.

At the end of the day, the discussion groups will present the results in a plenary session. Plans for collaboration can be further developed in the month following the Research day and sent to B. Adriaensen. The OSL Board will make € 1000,- of seed money available for the most promising initiative.


13.00-13.20: Welcome and presentation of the 2016 OSL Award to Emy Koopman and Daan Rutten

13.20-14.10: Lecture by Pieter Vermeulen (KU Leuven): “Five Propositions on Anthropocene Writing”

14.10-14.30: Coffee and tea

Parallel sessions 1: 14.30-16.00

  • Ecocriticism and Anthropocene – session convenor: dr Ben de Bruyn, (b.debruyn[at]
  • Tourism and Travel Cultures – session convenor: dr Tom Sintobin, t.sintobin[at]
  • Medical Humanities – session convenor: dr Gaston Franssen, G.E.H.I.Franssen[at]

Parallel sessions 2: 16.00-17.30

  • Memory – session convenor: dr Liedeke Plate, l.plate[at]
  • Poetics and Materialities of Knowledge – session convenor: dr Stephan Besser, s.besser[at]
  • Affect and Emotion – session convenor: dr Esther op de Beek,[at]

17.30-18.00: Round table discussion

18.00-18.30: Drinks offered by OSL


Project ‘Straatpoëzie’: Mapping Poetry in Public Spaces

In collaboration with the ICT department of her university, OSL PhD-canditate Kila van der Starre (Utrecht University) has launched the website ‘Straatpoëzie’: . This site is intended to use the reach and power of crowdsourcing to create the first inventory of poetry in public spaces in the Netherlands and Flanders. There are myriads of poems to be found and read in streets, but until now nobody knows where, by whom and how many they are. At this point around 500 points have been mapped and collected in the database. Please contribute tot he project and add as of yet undocumented poems to the database by using this form Kila van der Starre will use the results of this project in her PhD-research on ‘Poëzie buiten het boek’.

Ravenstein Seminar on Ecocriticism – Keynote lectures by Graham Huggan, Isabel Hoving and Kate Marshall (Jan 26 & 27)

All OSL members are cordially invited to attend the lectures given at the Ravenstein Seminar on “Ecocriticism: Literature & Environment” in Amsterdam on January 26 & 27 (University Theatre, Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01). The programme will include keynote lectures by

  • Graham Huggan (University of Leeds) – “Sperm Count: The Scoresbys and the North”
  • Isabel Hoving (Leiden University) –  “The Environmental Humanities and Caribbean Literature: New Ways to Theorize Race, Colonialism, Gender, and Desire”
  • Kate Marshall (University of Notre Dame) – “Interiority after Extinction: On the Limits of Ecocritical Narratology”

Please find the full programme and all abstracts below.

Conference programme

9:30-10:00Registration and coffee
10:15-11:15Graham Huggan (Leeds): “Sperm Count: The Scoresbys and the North”
11:15-11:30Coffee break
11:30-12:15Eric Metz (Amsterdam): Poetry and the “Forests of Symbols”: Re-evaluating Romantic Nature through the Lens of Russian Symbolism
13:30-14:30Isabel Hoving (Leiden): “The Environmental Humanities and Caribbean Literature: New Ways to Theorize Race, Colonialism, Gender, and Desire”
15:30-15:45Coffee break
14:45-15:30Vera Alexander (Groningen): “Gardens as Relational Heterotopias”
15:30-15:45Coffee break
15:45-16:30Panel discussion
18:00Conference Dinner
FRIDAY JAN 27, 2017
10:00-11:00Kate Marshall (Notre Dame, Indiana): “Interiority after Extinction: On the Limits of Ecocritical Narratology”
11:00-11:15Coffee break
11:15-12:00Ben de Bruyn (Maastricht): “The Smog of War: 9/11, Slow Violence and Climate Change in Recent Fiction”
12:00-12:15Coffee break
12:15-13:00Astrid Bracke (Nijmegen): “‘the dull old facts of altered climate’: Climate crisis and 21st-century narratives”
14:00-14:45Tom Idema (Utrecht): “Understanding Climate Change”
14:45-15:00Coffee break
15:00-15:45Kristine Steenbergh (Amsterdam): “Interrelating in the Anthropocene: Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods
15:45 -16:30Wrapping up


Vera Alexander (University of Groningen) – Gardens as Relational Heterotopias

Gardens are places where individuals confront their ideas and ideals about the environment, their notions about what is and is not natural and, on a more abstract plane, their visions of growth and aesthetics of improvement.

In this presentation I will analyse garden writings and look at the ways in which they problematise anthropocentric notions about human beings as creatures in charge of the environment. I will tie my analysis to two intersecting processes: trying to relate to place and trying to come to terms with a non-human Other.

Astrid Bracke (HAN University of Applied Sciences) – ‘the dull old facts of altered climate’: Climate crisis and 21st-century narratives

To the foetal narrator of Ian McEwan’s Nutshell (2016) climate crisis has already become shorthand, a familiar, dull story of altered climate, vanishing forests, animals and ice. In my talk I explore examples such as this as illustrations of climate crisis as a dominant twenty-first-century narrative. The phrase ‘climate crisis’ has become narrative shorthand for a wide range of issues and awareness of climate crisis pervades the social, political and cultural imagination.

Yet the climate crisis narrative also poses challenges to the contemporary imagination, even to the very act of narrating itself. These challenges go beyond the oft-repeated environmental humanities argument for ‘new narratives’ more suitable to the current environmental moment, nor can they be captured in terms of the ‘crisis of the imagination’ that some ecocritics believe climate crisis to be. Drawing on the burgeoning field of econarratology I discuss how postmillennial climate crisis narratives use and undermine stories and storytelling, and as such challenge the ecocritical project as a whole. Throughout the talk I use case studies from my forthcoming book, Climate Crisis and the Twenty-First-Century British Novel.

Ben de Bruyn (Maastricht University) – The Smog of War: 9/11, Slow Violence aClimate Change in Recent Fictionnd Climate Change in Recent Fiction

In its ongoing attempt to commemorate the traumas related to key historical events, recent Anglophone literature has been particularly interested in narrating two ongoing wars of global scale: various interconnected conflicts in the Middle East and the less visible war humans have been waging on the environment. Such military and ecological conflicts might appear to be very different but the work of recent thinkers and writers suggests that they are closely interconnected. In his study of air power and modernist culture, Paul Saint-Amour has identified a condition of ‘pre-traumatic stress syndrome’ that resonates with current fears over our destabilized climate, and Rob Nixon’s insightful analysis of ‘slow violence’ indicates that notions like war are relevant in an environmental context too. Most strikingly, Roy Scranton’s account of the Anthropocene implies that the most characteristic human figure in a time of destructive climate change may well be the soldier. And both Scranton and Saint-Amour explicitly tie these interlinked wars to anxieties over the disappearance of cultural archives and human memory. Developing these insights, and moving the debate on climate change literature beyond a narrowly conceived ‘clifi’, this paper begins by summarizing Robert Marzec’s work on ‘environmentality’ before examining ecology and memory in two recent war novels, Atticus Lish’s Preparation for the Next Life (2014) and Mark de Silva’s Square Wave (2015). In a final step, I will broaden the focus by turning to the environments of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (2015) and Nothing Ever Dies (2016).

Isabel Hoving (Leiden University) – The Environmental Humanities and Caribbean Literature: New Ways to Theorize Race, Colonialism, Gender, and Desire

My presentation will not take its point of departure in theory (in this case: ecocriticism), but in art. I will begin with an open question: Why do we find so many references to nature and the environment in the Caribbean creative fiction that tries to come to terms with the contemporary age of globalization? Even when these novels do not seem to be concerned with environmental issues at all, they abound with fragrant, creepy or dark references to flowers, insects, trees, gardens, and mud. Indeed, ecocritics will read these references as a critical reflection on the destructive environmental effects of colonialism and globalization. While such a reading is undoubtedly enlightening, it does not give us the whole story. Many Caribbean texts suggest that one cannot analyze environmental destruction without also analyzing the workings of racism, sexism and homophobia–and the other way around. I hope to show that the environmental humanities need to include postcolonial theory, gender studies and queer studies to make sense of the full complexity of Caribbean writing about the environment. Through a discussion of several literary examples, I propose to read these references within an intersectional frame that brings together ecocriticism with Caribbean and postcolonial studies, the study of globalization, trauma theory, the study of gender and sexuality, posthumanism and new materialism.

Graham Huggan (University of Leeds) – Sperm Count: The Scoresbys and the North

Scoresby is a familiar name for all those interested in the confluence of British maritime history and Northern exploration. Two Scoresbys, to be precise: William Senior, a towering figure in the history of late eighteenth-century commercial whaling; and William Junior, a post-Enlightenment ‘improver’ whose religious beliefs would neither compromise his dogged scientific rationalism nor his considerable entrepreneurial flair. Two Norths as well: for Whitby, the Scoresbys’ home town in Yorkshire, was not only one of the most important eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British whaling ports, but would also provide the base for both men’s enterprising forays into the Arctic, which –in Scoresby Junior’s case in particular– sought to reconcile industrial (mercantile) ambitions with scientific (natural-historical) claims. This talk uses the two Scoresbys to explore some of the hyper-masculinist myths that continue to surround narratives of whale hunting and Arctic exploration, embedding both of these within the long history of capitalist modernity as well as contemporaneous networks of British imperial history and European mercantile trade.

Tom Idema (Utrecht University) – Understanding Climate Change

Climate change has been a major factor in the advent of an environmental/nonhuman turn in the humanities. This new orientation has raised the question of how scholarly work in the humanities relates to new knowledge about nonhuman phenomena in the sciences. How do scientific advancements in geoscience, ecology, genomics, and other fields affect our understanding of climate change? With the 2015 publication of Adam Trexler’s Anthropocene Fictions: The Novel in a Time of Climate Change and Timothy Clark’s Ecocriticism on the Edge: The Anthropocene as a Threshold Concept, ecocriticism has begun to take on the challenges of climate change in earnest –not just the challenges to society, but also to ecocriticism itself. In this presentation I want to critically assess if and how recent work in the environmental humanities addresses the role of the sciences in the onto-epistemological construction of the Anthropocene, in dialogue with cultural and humanistic modes of understanding. I will argue that although some studies offer ways to think together with the sciences, these options remain rather underdeveloped. To illustrate my point, I will offer some insight into recent climate change research, which helps not only to further substantiate ecocritical claims by about the Anthropocene (naturecultures, hyperobjects, entangled scales, critical thresholds), but also to mobilize those claims for usage beyond the humanities.

Kate Marshall (University of Notre Dame) – Interiority after Extinction: On the Limits of Ecocritical Narratology

Narratives of extinction – cultural as well as fictional – have become commonplace topics for ecocritical approaches to literary study, subject to ever-more nuanced formalizations. One challenge for contemporary fictional extinction narratives is the project of rendering narrative subjects after the extinction event. This can be the case for landscapes and species, and presents peculiar problems when the extinction event includes the human. In this talk, I explore how a range of novels approach rendering post-extinction narrative subjects, asking who and what these foci are, and how the narrative techniques employed to render them provide access to larger questions about the role of extinction narrative in literary culture more broadly. By shifting focus from the extinction plot to the extinction subject within narrative, I locate a tension between apocalyptic temporalities and competing forms of prolepsis bearing on narrative subjects either transforming or imagining themselves transformed into post-extinction entities. Examples include Michel Houellebecq’s posthuman narrators of The Elementary Particles, the sentient landscapes of Jeff Vander Meer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, and the hybrid animals and humanoids of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam novels. Each of these texts incorporates elements of traditional extinction narrative and the tropes of climate fiction, but also challenges them on granular levels of interiority, focalization, and experiments in perspective.

Eric Metz (University of Amsterdam) – Poetry and the “Forests of Symbols”: Re-evaluating Romantic Nature through the Lens of Russian Symbolism

In many ways, the Symbolist tradition in world literature can be seen as a rejection, but also a continuation and intensification of Romanticism. This also seems to hold true for the symbolist treatment of “nature” in literature: arguably, the Symbolists introduced the cult of the artificial and “anti-natural”, while while at the same time they were also explicitly building upon presumed ecocentric tendencies in Romanticism. In my contribution, I will focus on the Russian poet and essayist Konstantin Balmont (1867-1942), who was one of the main propagators of Symbolism in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century. Several of his essays show an interesting dichotomic view of Romanticism from the perspective of the (then) newest literary current: great Romantic poets, such as Byron and Pushkin, are criticised for the anthropocentrism of their nature poetry, whereas other Romantics, like P.B. Shelley, Fet, and Tyutchev are presented as models for literary innovation because of their perceived ecocentrism – the term Balmont uses here, in fact, is “poetic pantheism”. There are three questions that I would like to address. First, to which extent can Balmont’s argument be read as an implicit critique of Baudelaire’s seminal poem “Correspondences”, in which nature is depicted as a temple where man passes through “forests of symbols”? Second, how can Balmont’s musings on nature’s fundamental autonomy be connected – on a typological and/or on a genetic level – with Friedrich Schiller’s poetics of authenticity, and with Vladimir Solovyov’s reflections on wilderness and its relation to poetry? Third, should Balmont himself be re-evaluated as an ecocritic avant la lettre whose views on nature and literature could still be useful for contemporary literary historiography?

Kristine Steenbergh (VU Amsterdam) – Interrelating in the Anthropocene: Jeanette Winterson’s ‘The Stone Gods’

Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods (2007) is a novel of the Anthropocene, telling stories of colonisation, objectification and domination of new worlds. The interlocking narratives in the novel, together with intertextual references to colonial texts, shape a pattern of a repeating world – or, to quote the novel, the sense that “everything is imprinted forever with what it once was.” The Stone Gods has both been read as exemplary of a geotraumatic and melancholy Anthropocene and as a novel of ‘queer exuberance’ that affirms values opposing the structures of contemporary biopower. In this paper, I will reassess this critical disagreement through a reading of the novel from an ecocritical perspective, focusing on its intertextuality with the seventeenth-century poetry of John Donne. Reading the novel alongside Donna Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble (2016) and Ann Laura Stoler’s Duress: Imperial Durabilities in Our Times (2016), I will argue that the intertextual repetition of Donne’s colonialist love poems shapes new posthuman modes of interrelating. To use Stoler’s words, the poems function in the novel as “histories that fold back on themselves and, in that refolding, reveal new surfaces and new planes. Recursion opens to novel contingent possibilities […]” (26). The novel invites us to think about the role of literature –contemporary as well as historical– in shaping new modes of staying with the trouble in the Anthropocene.



Seminar – The Future Continent: Perspectives on Contemporary African Literature

Organisation: Dr Hanneke Stuit (UvA) and Dr Astrid van Weyenberg (Leiden)
Venue: University of Amsterdam, see below.
Dates: 3, 10 & 17 March, 21 April, 12 May & 2 June/ All sessions will take place on Fridays, from 13 to 16h*, except 10 March, 14.00-17.00)
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMA students; OSL members will have first access
EC: 5
*Dates and times might be subject to small changes.

THE SEMINAR IS FULLY BOOKED, please send us an e-mail with your name, university and research school. We will put you on our waiting list.


As Achille Mbembe has pointed out, “it’s becoming more and more evident that the very future of our planet is being played out in Africa, whether one is dealing with questions of ecological crises, climate change, refugees, renewal of energies and so forth and so on, Africa is back on the agenda.” A future – and present – often perceived from political, sociological, ethnographical or anthropological perspectives from, on and about Africa. But what about the artistic domains? What about, specifically, the African literary domain? If it is indeed the case, as Jean and John Comaroff also suggest, that “it is the so-called ‘Global South’ that affords privileged insight into the workings of the world at large” (3), now more than ever is the time to investigate how these literatures deal with issues of globalisation, migration, identity and the contours of contemporary capitalism.

This OSL seminar aims to provide such a research environment and to unite research done on African and African diasporic literature at universities across the country. Topics that will be discussed include literature, translation, theatre, and new media. The seminar is not meant to represent Africa as a continent as such, but aims to study African literary and cultural production, to provide a lively and interdisciplinary perspective on African literature, and to examine the questions about the contemporary globalised present that this literature forces us to ask.

Format: Three-hour seminars.

Exams: Portfolio that combines a reflection on 4 of the sessions, engaging with the readings and discussion for that week (750-1000 words each).


  • Mabanckou – Broken Glass
  • Ndiaye – Three Strong Women
  • Glissant – Carribean Discourse

The other readings will be made available digitally.

PRELIMINARY PROGRAMME (might be subject to change)

1. Introduction: “The Future Continent”

Dr Hanneke Stuit (UvA) en Dr Astrid van Weyenberg (Leiden), 3 March 2017 (PCH 1.15)

  • Comaroff, Jean and John Comaroff. “Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa.” Anthropological Forum 22.2 (2012).
  • Ato Quayson. “Symbolization Compulsions: Freud, African Literature and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Process.” Calibrations. Reading for the Social.
  • Dambudzo Marechera – “ The House of Hunger” in The House of Hunger. Heinemann, 1978.

2. Postcolony, Afropolitanism and Humour in ‘New African Romans’: Alain Mabanckou’s Broken Glass

Dr Emanuelle Radar (Radboud), 10 March 2017 (University Theatre 1.01A)
NOTE: Session from 14.00 – 17.00

  • Alain Mabanckou. Broken Glass. Transl Helen Stevenson. Profile Books ltd., 2011.
  • Michael Syrotinski. (2014) “Globalization, mondialisation and the immonde in contemporary Francophone African literature.” Paragraph, 37 (2). pp. 254-272.
  • Achille Mbembe, Steven Rendall “African Modes of Self-Writing” in Public Culture, Volume 14, Number 1, pp. 239-273 . Published by Duke University Press, 2002.
  • Achille Mbembe, Sarah Balakrishnan. “Pan-African Legacies, Afropolitan Futures: A conversation with Achille Mbembe” in Transition, Issue 120, pp. 28-37. Published by Indiana University Press, 2016.
  • Jason Herbeck. “User-Friendliness and Virtual Reality, A Hypertextual Reading of Alain Mabanckou’s Verre Cassé” in Revue Critique de Fixxion Francaise Contemporaine, 3 2011. pp. 50-59

3. Johannesburg in Transition: Three Literary Representations of the City.

Prof. dr Carrol Clarkson (UvA), 17 March 2017 (PCH 1.15)

  • Marlene van Niekerk: Triomf (first published in Afrikaans in 1994)
  • Phaswane Mpe: Welcome to Our Hillbrow (2001)
  • Ivan Vladislavic: The Restless Supermarket (2001)
  • Ivan Vladislavic: Portrait with Keys  (2006)
  • Carrol Clarkson, Visible and Invisible in Drawing the Line; toward an aesthetics of transnational justice. (2014)
  • Mail & Guardian, The Silence Between Spaces (March 3, 2017)
  • Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (1984)

Selected chapters from a range of secondary texts will also be made available. These include essays by artists, writers, philosophers and cultural theorists: William Kentridge, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel de Certeau, Achille Mbembe, and others. The seminar will be loosely based on one of the chapters in prof Clarkson’s own book, Drawing the Line: Toward an Aesthetics of Transitional Justice (2014).

4. Berber/Amazigh Literature Beyond the Oral/Written Divide

Prof. dr Daniela Merolla (Leiden / INALCO – Sorbonne Paris-Cité), 21 April 2017 (PCH 1.15)

  • Daniela Merolla. “Introduction: Orality and technauriture of African Literatures.” Tydskrif vir Letterkunde 51(1): 2014. 80-90.
  • Daniela Merolla. “Intersections: Amazigh (Berber) Literary Space.” Vitality and Dinamism. Interstitial Dialogues of Language, Politics and Religion in Morocco’s Literary Tradition. Eds. Bratt, K.R., Y. Elbousty and D.J. Steward. Leiden: Leiden UP, 2014. 47-72.
  • Primary source TBA.

5. Re-Writing and Re-thinking the Word from the margins : Edouard Glissant

(Réécrire et repenser le monde à partir des marges: Edouard Glissant); Prof. Romuald Fonkoua (Paris-Sorbonne), 12 May 2017  (PCH 5.60)

  • Edouard Glissant. Carribean Discourse: Selected Essays. Transl. Michael Dash, 1998. (Le discours antillais).
  • OPTIONAL:  Edouard Glissant. Poetics of Relation. Transl. Betsy Wing.

6. Literature, Transnational Poetics and the Planetary

Dr Birgit M. Kaiser (UU); 2 June 2017 (PCH 5.59)




Onderzoekstutorial – Hoe is het om patiënt te zijn? Verhalen in de geneeskunde, de psychologie en de geesteswetenschappen

Datum & tijd: febr – maart 2017, zes bijeenkomsten in de avonduren, 17:00-20:00. Zie hieronder.
Locaties: Universiteit van Amsterdam en UMC Utrecht (Uithof), zie details hieronder.
Voor: RMA-studenten Geesteswenschappen en (R)MA-studenten Geneeskunde
EC: 6
Registratie: via Gaston Franssen,
Promovendi en Research Master studenten die lid zijn van OSL, hebben voorrang bij inschrijving.


  • Dr. Stefan van Geelen (Wilhelmina Kinderziekenhuis, Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht)
  • Dr. Gaston Franssen (Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen, Universiteit van Amsterdam)
  • Dr. Annet van Royen-Kerkhof (Wilhelmina Kinderziekenhuis, Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht)

De dialoog tussen de geneeskunde en de geesteswetenschappen is al eeuwenoud – vanaf Aristoteles’ filosofische overtuiging dat de tragedie de ziel zou zuiveren tot aan huidige ontwikkelingen als medical humanities en ‘metamedica’. Deze tutorial brengt niet alleen aspecten van deze dialoog in kaart, maar stimuleert deze ook, door geneeskundigen en geesteswetenschappers met elkaar van gedachten te laten wisselen over de vraag: welke verhalen spelen een rol in de zorg? Die verhalen zijn van cruciaal belang, zowel voor de patiënt als voor de behandelaar of zorgverlener. Verhalen geven patiënten de kans om betekenis te geven aan hun ervaringen en dragen bij aan inzicht in (mentale) aandoeningen waarin het ‘gezonde’ verhaal onder druk is komen te staan. Daarnaast bieden verhalen behandelaar en zorgverleners inzicht in het perspectief van de patiënt, alsook een manier om hun empathische vermogens te vergroten, en op eigen functioneren en professionele identiteit te reflecteren.

Uitgangspunt in deze tutorial is dat het verhaal niet alleen een kennisbron is, maar ook een instrument dat in de zorg kan worden ingezet. Onderzoekers, artsen, zorgverleners en beleidsmakers raken namelijk steeds meer overtuigd van het belang om verbinding te zoeken met de patiënt en deze bij het zorgproces te betrekken. In de zorg worden uiteenlopende initiatieven ontplooid om die betrokkenheid te realiseren (bijvoorbeeld in person-centered care of zelfmanagement-strategieën), waarbij de subjectieve ervaring (‘het verhaal’) van de patiënt zelf voorop staat: de patiënt, zo is de gedachte, moet niet langer als object van behandeling of target van een interventie worden gezien, maar als ‘expert-cliënt’, actief betrokken zijn in de vormgeving van de eigen zorg. De mogelijke voordelen daarvan laten zich raden: de zorg wordt effectiever en efficiënter, het inzicht in de aandoening neemt toe, en de patiënt voelt zich empowered, wat bijdraagt aan de kwaliteit van leven. Bij het omzetten van deze ideeën naar kwetsbare patiëntengroepen stuit men – naast praktische struikelblokken – echter al snel op ingewikkelde theoretische problematiek.

De casussen die in deze tutorial hoofdzakelijk aan bod komen zijn de verhalen van patiënten die in zekere zin extra onder druk lijken te staan: kinderen met chronische aandoeningen, ouderen in de geriatrie, psychosomatische en psychiatrische patiënten. Wie de zelfervaring van deze patiënten wil doorgronden, stuit op fundamentele problemen. In deze gevallen gaat het immers om ‘kwetsbare verhalenvertellers’: patiënten met beperkte autonomie en agency, wier zelfervaring fragmentarisch, incoherent, aftakelend, of nog in ontwikkeling is. Hoe kunnen we het verhaal van deze patiënten, die soms niet voor zichzelf kunnen spreken, achterhalen en productief inzetten in de zorg?

De tutorial bestaat uit twee componenten: studenten nemen deel aan 1) een reeks seminarbijeenkomsten waarin de studenten relevante literatuur en casussen bestuderen, bediscussiëren en aan elkaar presenteren, en 2) een onderzoeksproject waarin de studenten deelnemen aan, en reflecteren op, een behandelingstraject (een programma van vier weken waarin de zelfervaring van een adolescente patiënt met taaislijmziekte (CF) wordt gesimuleerd). De studenten houden een portfolio bij waarin ze op hun ervaringen reflecteren. Het portfolio zal worden gebruikt voor vervolgonderzoek.


  • Kennis maken met medisch-psychologisch en geesteswetenschappelijk onderzoek op het gebied van zelfervaring
  • Inzicht verwerven in de relevantie en het belang van zelfervaring van patiënten in de zorg (met betrekking tot de vormgeving van de zorg en het vormen van een professionele identiteit)
  • Ervaring opdoen met de uitdagingen van het volgen van een behandelregime
  • Verbanden leren leggen tussen geneeskundige en geesteswetenschappelijke inzichten


  •  Individueel portfolio met reflecties op het behandelregime
  • Groepspresentaties over exemplarische patiëntverhalen in de vorm van romans (1 x per sessie, door 4 studenten, waarvan 2 geneeskundig en 2 geesteswetenschappelijk)
  • Groepspresentaties over geselecteerde vakliteratuur (2 x per sessie, door 2 studenten waarvan 1 geneeskundig en 1 geesteswetenschappelijk)
  • Voor diegenen die de cursus voor EC afronden: een individuele research paper van 2500 woorden


Tijden: 17:00-20:00

15 februari: locatie WKZ/UMC Utrecht, Lundlaan 6, Utrecht, Vergaderzaal KC03.085.0
22 februari: locatie UvA. PC Hoofthuis 6.05, Spuistraat 134
1 maart: locatie WKZ/UMC Utrecht, Lundlaan 6, Utrecht, Vergaderzaal KC03.085.0
8 maart: locatie WKZ/UMC Utrecht, Lundlaan 6, Utrecht, Vergaderzaal KC03.085.0 (LET OP: gewijzigde locatie)
15 maart: locatie UvA. PC Hoofthuis 6.05, Spuistraat 134 (LET OP: gewijzigde locatie)
22 maart: locatie UvA. PC Hoofthuis 6.05, Spuistraat 134


Promotie – Daan Rutten (Universiteit Utrecht)

De ernst van het spel. Willem Frederik Hermans en de ethiek van de persoonlijke mythologie

Datum: Vrijdag 16 december om 10.30 stipt
Locatie: Senaatszaal Academiegebouw – Universiteit Utrecht

Daan Rutten ontwikkelde een oorspronkelijke visie op het werk van Willem Frederik Hermans, waardoor deze auteur – die vandaag vaak even gecanoniseerd als versteend lijkt – opnieuw ontdekt, gelezen en begrepen kan worden. Wat betekent het eigenlijk om, zoals Hermans leek te doen, te beweren altijd gelijk te hebben? Waarom hield hij zich zo fanatiek bezig met literatuur, terwijl hij doorlopend stelde dat enkel wetenschap tot echte kennis kon leiden? Welk positief engagement ging verscholen achter zijn niets of niemand ontziende afbraakdrift? Welke vorm van cultuurkritiek bedreef Hermans, de auteur die veelal geen goed woord overhad voor schrijvers (als Mulisch) die met hun maatschappijbetrokkenheid te koop liepen en zelf zijn imago als spelbreker en zelfs nihilist leek te cultiveren?

Naar aanleiding van deze promotie is er in de middag van 15.00-17.00 een symposium over het engagement en de ethiek van moderne literatuur.






OSL Award 2016: Call for Submissions (Deadline extension)

OSL Award 2016

Each year, OSL rewards one of its members with an OSL Award for the publication of an excellent scholarly book or article. Founded at the occasion of the school’s 20th anniversary in 2015 and reflecting a rich tradition of distinguished scholarship at OSL, the Award is intended to acknowlegde original and innovative contributions to the field of literary studies and to highlight the work of talented scholars at the beginning of their careers. The OSL Award comes with prize money of € 250,-.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Recipients must be OSL members* who have obtained their PhD no longer than four years ago; a completed PhD is not a requirement. (* they must be or have been OSL PhD candidates)
  • The award will be granted for a work of literary criticism of outstanding quality and originality. The work must have been published in book form or as an article in one of the modern European languages, within a period of four years prior to the granting of the award, i.e. within the period 2012-2016 for the 2016 OSL Award.


  • Publications can be submitted by the authors themselves or anybody else. Submissions should be accompanied by a brief motivation in which the merits of the publication are outlined.
  • The awards committee consists of the members of the OSL board.
  • Articles should to be submitted as PFD-files to Books can be submitted in digital form as well (if available), otherwise a hardcopy should be send to Onderzoekschool Literatuurwetenschap, UvA, Spuistraat 210, 1012 VT Amsterdam. NOTE: When sending in a hardcopy after May 23, 2016, please use our new address: Kloverniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam.
  • The deadline for proposals for the 2016 OSL Award is November 30, 2016.

We look forward to your submissions!

Prof. dr Henk van der Liet (Director)
Dr Stephan Besser (Programme Director)
Dr Brigitte Adriaensen (Head of the OSL Board)