Lecture and discussion – Angus Nicholls: ‘Scientific’ Literary Studies During the Late Nineteenth Century and Today: A Critical Overview

Date: December 20, 2017; 15:00-17:00

Location: University of Amsterdam, PC Hoofthuis, Spuistraat 134 (room tbc)



The late nineteenth century was a period in which academic disciplines began to form and professionalize themselves in modern research universities. Like many disciplines during this period, literary studies (Literaturwissenschaft) attempted to establish itself by arguing that its methods were ‘scientific’ or wissenschaftlich. But here the key term in the debate – that of ‘science’ (Wissenschaft) – was a contested one, and was defined in different ways, in different cultural contexts, by different protagonists in the field. In this paper, I will attempt to show that these nineteenth-century debates on the ‘scientific’ nature of literary studies bear a striking similarity to present day discussions. This is so because – especially in the UK system – the humanities continue to be assessed and funded according to models predominantly derived from research in the natural sciences; models which favour a linear conception of objective scientific progress and which valorise quantifiable impact upon society. This paper will offer an overview of this subject in relation to British and German intellectual history, as part of an introduction to a larger monograph project. Some of the better-known thinkers treated will include Matthew Arnold, Thomas Henry Huxley, Wilhelm Dilthey and Wilhelm Scherer. For those interested, further information on the larger project can be found here:




Angus Nicholls teaches in the Departments German and Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London, and served as the Chair of Comparative Literature between 2013 and 2016. Some book publications include: Goethe’s Concept of the Daemonic (2006), Thinking the Unconscious: Nineteenth-Century German Thought (co-edited, 2010), Myth and the Human Sciences: Hans Blumenberg’s Theory of Myth (2015), and Friedrich Max Müller and the Role of Philology in Victorian Thought (co-edited, 2017). He co-edits two journals: Publications of the English Goethe Society (Routledge) and History of the Human Sciences (Sage). Further into and publications here:


Ravenstein Seminar (Winter School 2018) – Literature, Affect and Emotion

Date: 24-26 January 2018
Venue: Jan 24 (RMa programme): University Library: Doelenzaal, Singel 425, Amsterdam; Jan 25 & 26: University Theater: room 3.01, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, Amsterdam
Organisation: Kristine Steenbergh (VU Amsterdam), Sven Vitse (Utrecht University),  Kristine Johanson (University of Amsterdam), Andries Hiskes (Haagse Hogeschool & Leiden University)
Speakers: Eugenie Brinkema (MIT), Isobel Armstrong (Birbeck College), Alexa Weik von Mossner (University of Klagenfurt), Frans Willem Korsten (Leiden University) et al.
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa students; OSL members will have first access

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.

The strong affects and emotions that literature can evoke, express and negotiate have always fascinated writers, philosophers and literary scholars. In this winter school we will explore various approaches and topics relating to the current ‘turn to affect’ and emotions in literary and cultural studies. We will discuss the role of emotions in early modern literary culture, probe various theories of affect (Deleuzian/Spinozist, ideological critique, aesthetic and formalist approaches) and their employment in the study of literature, and explore links with film studies and ecocriticism (the topic of the previous Ravenstein Seminar). We will be joined by a number of inspiring scholars in the field who will share their expertise and present current research projects. The purpose of the winter school is to give the participants a broad orientation in this fascinating, manifold and topical field of research, to provide them with specific insights into current debates and research practices, and to give them the opportunity to explore possible topics for research activities of their own.

OSL Schrijfcursus voor geesteswetenschappers – Framen, schrappen en herschrijven

Datum: 8, 10 & 12 januari 2018 (onder voorbehoud/might be subject to change)
Locatie: Universiteit Utrecht
Bestemd voor: Promovendi en RMa studenten, verbonden aan OSL
Voertaal: Nederlands
EC: 3 (aanwezigheid bij alle bijeenkomsten vereist)
Bij aanmelding graag vermelden welke RMa opleiding je volgt.

Deze cursus is vol. Indien je deel wilt nemen, kunnen we je op de wachlijst plaatsen.
Stuur ons een e-mail met je naam, universiteit en landelijke onderzoekschool.

Valorisatie wordt in de wetenschap steeds belangrijker. En dan gaat het er niet alleen over dat je onderzoek aansluiting vindt bij maatschappelijke thema’s, maar ook dat je aan het brede publiek duidelijk kunt maken waar het over gaat en wat er interessant aan is. In deze korte, intensieve schrijfcursus leer je in verschillende tekstgenres je onderzoek te presenteren. Hoe kun je in een opiniërende column de aansluiting zoeken bij de actualiteit? Welke offers moet je (niet) brengen wanneer je in de media komt of een boek schrijft voor een publieksuitgeverij? Hoe kun je je onderzoek ‘framen’? De cursus bestaat uit schrijfoefeningen en discussies.

Docent: Geert Buelens, hoogleraar Moderne Nederlandse Letterkunde Universiteit Utrecht en meermaals bekroond en vertaald essayist, columnist en schrijver van literaire non-fictie.

OSL Seminar Literature & Diversity: New Approaches to the Study of Cultural Representation

Dates: 2 February, 16 February, 23 February, 16 March, 6 April  2018 (Friday morning or afternoon)
Venue: Utrecht University
Open to: PhD candidates and RMa students; members of OSL will have first access
Organisers: Lucas van der Deijl, Saskia Pieterse, Roel Smeets + guest speakers

Inspired by postcolonial theory and gender criticism, the notions of identity  and  representation have become key concepts in academic and critical approaches to literature. At an early stage, students of literary studies are currently trained to analyse individual cases of othering as symptomatic of  stereotypes or power relations that are exposed, confirmed or contested by literary texts. In addition, the focus on representation has, to a certain extent, helped to improve the position of women, various minorities, and non-Western writers in literary canons and to further the study of their works. By now these critical approaches are supported by a longstanding tradition that has fueled numerous debates on literature and identity both in academia and beyond.

In recent years, the notions of representation and diversity have generated new interest and debates within literary studies and beyond that we want to address in this seminar. On the one hand, new arguments have been formulated by initiatives that tackle questions of diversity, social imbalance and misrepresentation in contemporary and historical cultures through a more quantitative approach. Well-known examples are VIDA (counting ‘women in literary arts’) and the ‘Hollywood Diversity Report’ annually published by UCLA. These large scale empirical projects rely on the assumption that numbers are more persuasive or more fit for the purpose of describing diversity (of a system, a literature) than qualitative or discursive arguments. At the same time, debates about cultural appropriation and imaginative leaps into other identities have questioned the power relations involved in cultural exchange and placed new emphasis on the problem of an unequal access to literary resources, audiences and means of representation.

In this seminar we will study these developments and their methodological implications with a specific focus on the concept of diversity. The use (but also the problematics) of this term for literary studies will be discussed, both theoretically and methodologically. The course offers four different perspectives on the concept of diversity, based on four dimensions of literary communication: (the diversity of) readers, texts, contexts and authors. In each session, an empirical or quantitative approach will be contrasted and/or supplemented with a qualitative perspective through the reading of a literary text. We will address different layers of diversity such as gender, ethnicity, class, sexuality and disability, with a strong emphasis on the intersections between those categories. Central issues will be representation, multiculturalism, canonicity, authorship, autonomy, polyphony, the literary field, and stereotypes. During the fifth and final session, the students will engage in an interview with a specialist from the current (inter)national debate on culture and diversity.



Deleuze & How to Live the Anti-Fascist Life and Endure the Pain

Deleuze Seminar 2017-2018
Rosi Braidotti and Rick Dolphijn

Time: Wednesday afternoons, 13.00-16.00
Location: Stijlkamer van Ravensteijn, Kromme Nieuwe Gracht 80, Utrecht University.
Organised by: the OSL (Onderzoekschool Literatuurwetenschap) with the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University
Convened by: Professor Rosi Braidotti with Dr. Rick Dolphijn (Utrecht University) and student working groups (Discussion group “The Joyful Nomads”,…)
Registration: please send an e-mail, including a biographical text of up to 100 words stating your affiliation and motivation for the seminar, to Paul Koopman, osl-fgw@uva.nl and Professor Braidotti’s assistant: gw.braidottiass@uu.nl.

For more information about Deleuze seminars and other activities please consult the website of the Deleuze Circle: http://deleuzecircle.wp.hum.uu.nl/

The seminar consists of ten sessions in English which will run throughout the academic year 2017-2018 in Utrecht. Research masters and PhD students, as well as staff members, are welcome to participate. Students can get credits for their participation by attending regularly (attendance will be registered) and writing a final paper. Each session of the three-hour seminar will consist of an in-depth reading of a text by Gilles Deleuze (with or without Felix Guattari), sometimes alongside secondary texts by other theorists or philosophers.
Participants are expected to acquire the literature themselves, but wherever possible we will make pdf files available.


SESSION 1: Introduction to the non-fascist Life
(Braidotti & Dolphijn)
13 September 2017

Reading material:

  • Braidotti, R. 2016. “Don’t Agonise, Organise!” E-Fluxhttps://conversations.e-flux.com/t/rosi-braidotti-don-t-agonize-organize/5294
  • Preface to Anti-Oedipus by Michel Foucault.
  • Parr, Adrian. 2010. The Deleuze Dictionary, Revised Edition. Edinburgh: Edinburg University Press. Section on: “Fascism”


SESSION 2: The Despotic State Machine
(Braidotti & Dolphijn)
11 October 2017

Reading Material:

  • Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari 1983 Anti-Oedipus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (Originally published in 1972, by Les Editions de Minuit, Paris.). Chapter 3: “Savages, Barbarians Civilized Men”:
    o section 6: “The barbarian despotic machine”: p. 191-200;
    o section 9: “The civilized capitalist machine” and section 10: “Capitalist Representation”: p. 222-262


SESSION 3: Micropolitics
(Braidotti and Dolphijn)
8 November 2017

Reading material:

  • Deleuze and Guattari: “9 Micropolitics and segmentary”, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987: p. 208-231.
  • Parr, Adrian. 2010. The Deleuze Dictionary, Revised Edition. Edinburgh: Edinburg University Press. Section on: “Micropolitics”
  • Parr, Adrian. 2010. The Deleuze Dictionary, Revised Edition. Edinburgh: Edinburg University Press. Section on: “Stratification”
  • Guattari: ‘Everybody wants to be a Fascist’, in: Lotringer, Sylvère (ed.) Chaosophy, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), pp. 154-175 and 225-251.


SESSION 4: The Desire for a Strong Leader
(Braidotti and Dolphijn)
13 December 2017

Reading Material:

  • Deleuze and Guattari. “On European Racism and the White Face of Christ” (7: Year Zero: Faciality ATP 167-192
  • Braidotti, R. ‘Punk Women and Riot Grrls’, in: Performance Philosophy journal, Vol. 1, April 2015. http://www.performancephilosophy.org/journal/article/view/32/64


SESSION 5: The Over-coding of Flows
(Student Working Group 1 presents)
14/21 February 2018

Reading Material:

  • The War machine (12: 1227: Treatise on Nomadology – the War Machine 351-387 (part I)


SESSION 6: Micro-Fascism and Fascist Desire
(Student Working Group 2 presents)
21 March 2018

Reading Material:

  • The War machine (12: 1227: Treatise on Nomadology – the War Machine 387-424 (part II)


SESSION 7: Segmentarity
(Braidotti & The Joyful Nomads?)
11 April 2018

Reading Material:

  • special issue of E-Flux #83 (June 2016) – 9 articles http://www.e-flux.com/journal/83/
  • Parr, Adrian. 2010. The Deleuze Dictionary, Revised Edition. Edinburgh: Edinburg University Press. Section on: “Desire”


SESSION 8: International Deleuze Studies Day in Utrecht
16 May 2018


SESSION 9: Deleuze and Us
13 June 2018

Reading Material:

  • R. Braidotti: Nomadic Theory, ch. 11: “Sustainable Ethics and the Body in Pain”: 299-324.
  • Deleuze, Gilles. 1988. “Ch.2: On Difference between the Ethics and a Morality;
  • Ch. 3: The Letters on Evil (correspondence with Blyenbergh);
  • Ch. 6: Spinoza and Us”. In: Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. San Francisco: City Lights Books. (Originally published in 1970, by Presses Universitaires de France.)


SESSION 10: Final Presentation of all Projects
(Braidotti and Dolphijn)

Utopia across Cultures: A Workshop

Date: 16 February 2018
Time: 10.00-16.00h
Venue: University Library – Vondelzaal, Singel 425
Open to: PhD candidates and RMa students; members of OSL will have first access
Lecturer: dr Barnita Bagchi, UvA

This masterclass invites advanced postgraduate students to explore the mobile, cross-cultural nature of utopia. Even if the word was invented in Europe in 1516 by Thomas More, utopia has manifestations in and has travelled between all inhabited continents, for example in Asia, through Buddhism. The heuristic mode so crucial to utopian writing, which is usefully seen as a kind of speculative writing,  plays in richly varied ways with thinking across cultures. Utopia articulates dreams of a better life and anticipations of the future (Bloch, 1954-1959); a ‘social dreaming’ (Claeys and Sargent 1999), utopia combines social and imaginative experimentation. In this masterclass, students will be thinking through how the transcultural plays out in utopian writing from the 20th and 21st centuries.  Afrofuturism and hybrid aesthetics influenced by South Asian cultures are in focus. We will discuss literary and critical texts by Octavia Butler, Salman Rushdie, Lyman Tower Sargent and others.

Violence and Memory in Postcolonial Literature and Film: Cultural Remembrances

Date: October 2017— January 2018, see below
Venue: University of Amsterdam, see below
Fee (non-members): 250
Credits: 5 ECTS (available upon request)
Registration: Maximum participants in this seminar: 15-20
Open to: ReMa students and PhD candidates who are members of a Dutch Graduate Research School (onderzoekschool); OSL student members will have first access. PhD candidates should ask permission in advance from the seminar’s coordinator and send a short description of their research projects.
Credits & Certificate: Certificates of participation and credits are available upon request after the event. Event coordinator will decide whether the participant has fulfilled all requirements for the ECTS. Please direct your request to OSL (osl-fgw[at]uva[dot]nl) and include your address details.
Coordination: Dr Ihab Saloul, isaloul[at]uva[dot]nl

“The colonized man finds his freedom in and through violence.”
— Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth (1963:86)

The decisive role that Fanon attributes to material violence in the colonial context had an inexorable afterlife in the postcolonial world. According to Fanon, violence functions like a language in the colonial system, such that the colonised who seeks to overthrow the coloniser is only writing back in the coloniser’s own language. The texts and films we will study reflect this intersection of violation and political violence. Contrary to Fanon, however, they present it as a mutating, complex cultural phenomenon that draws its energies from multiple histories. postcolonial literary and audiovisual media, as we will see, not only locate violence in culturally specific sites and values such as shame, honour, purity and sacrifice, but they also draw their charge from the ways the corporeality or the embodied politics of “the victim” is made to stand in for the body politic. Think of the links between contemporary cases of political conflict across the world and Western colonial history of these territories. Other examples include European experiences with the so-called “violent migrant”, and how the phenomenon of migration runs the risk of being enduringly aesthetized. Among other matters, postcolonial texts and media expose the brutalities of war, the entanglement of family dynamics in armed resistance to political oppression, the ambiguities of bearing witness to violation, and the effects of metropolitan values imposed upon poverty-stricken societies on the brink of chaos. These explosive topics will be the focus of our discussion. We will explore the historical references that postcolonial cultural expressions adopt in the context of globalisation, and ask whether their symbolism adds or undercuts their political urgency? How does the extremity of the subject matter of these media effect their reaching beyond the conventions of realism into the realms of memory and the imagined (even the surreal, and the grotesque sometimes)? Of related interest will be the ways in which postcolonial literature and media experiment with anti-linear sequences and spatiotemporal continuities of memory in order to stage an apocalyptic climax that collapses past, present and future violence.

Reading materials include Asia Djebar, Algerian White (2000);  Liyana Badr, A Balcony Over the Fakihani (1983); Santosh Sivan, The Terrorist (1998); Andrew Niccol, Lord of War (2005).

The seminar’s objectives are:

  • To introduce students to postcolonial memory debates and theories in connection to contemporary media representations of memory, violence, migration, identity and globalisation
  • To provide students with analytical tools to deal with these concepts in postcolonial literature and films from different historical and cultural contexts.

Instructional Format & Examination
The course includes lectures, film viewings, and a mini-conference. Students are expected to:

  • Attendance and active participation (20%)
  • Group and Individual presentations (30%)
  • 3000 word analytical report, with a focus on the seminar’s themes (50%)


Friday 27 October, 15:00-18:00
PC Hoofthuis – 5.59 (Spuistraat 134)
Lecture: “Theory & Postcolonial Memory”

Friday 10 November, 14:00-18:00
University Library – Potgieterzaal (Singel 425)
Andrew Niccol. Lord of War (2005); readings by W. Benjamin & A. Huyssen

Friday 24 November 2017, 15:00-18:00
University Library – Belle van Zuylenzaal (Singel 425)

J.M.  Coetzee, Age of Iron (1990); readings by  F. Fanon, K. Kulavkova et al.

Friday 1 December, 14:00-18:00
University Library – Belle van Zuylenzaal (Singel 425)
Orientalism and the Subaltern
Santosh Sivan. The Terrorist (1998); readings by E. Said et al.

Friday 12 January, 15:00-18:00
Bushuis – F2.11B (Kloveniersburgwal 48)
Migration and Diaspora
Badr, A Balcony over the Fakihani ([1983] 2002), selection; A. Djebar, Algerian White ([1995] 2000), selection; readings by E. Apter, T. Sabry et al.

Friday 19 January 2018, 11:00-18:00
University Library – Belle van Zuylenzaal (Singel 425)

Instructional Format & Examination

The course includes lectures, film viewings, and a mini-conference. Students are expected to:

  • Attend and actively participate in all session (20% of final grade)
  • Prepare a presentation fort he mini conference (30%)
  • Write a 3000-word essay with a special focus on the seminar’s themes (50%)

Creative Writing: Practice, Research and Reflection

Dates: October 27, November 10 and December 1 (10:00-16:30; dates might be subject to change)
Venue: Utrecht University, University of Amsterdam, see below
Open to: PhD candidates and RMa students; members of OSL will have first access
ECTS: 5 (Note: Participants are required to attend all sessions)
Organisation: dr Stephan Besser (UvA/OSL)
Instructor afternoon seminars: dr Simon Cook (UU)
Guest lectures by dr Stephen Benson (University of East Anglia), dr Clare Connors (University of East Anglia) et al.

In this course, participants reflect on academic writing as a genre and acquire a wider range of skills. They learn to use creative writing techniques as forms of artistic research and methodological inspiration. The morning sessions introduce recent research on creative writing as a historical and discursive phenomenon, various approaches to creativity and the practical experiences of authors and journalists who have crossed the borders between academic, literary and journalistic writing. Special attention will be given to modes of creative critical writing. In the afternoon seminars, students experiment with various literary and creative writing techniques.

27 October – Utrecht University, Janskerkhof 15A, room 0.04
10 November –  University Theatre 1.01, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, Amsterdam
1 December – Utrecht University, Drift 13, room 0.03

Course – Computational Literary Studies

Dates: Spring 2018 TBA
Time: 15.00-18.00 hrs.
Venue: University of Amsterdam TBA
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa Students, OSL members will have first access
Organiser: prof. Karina van Dalen-Oskam (UvA)
ECTS: 3-6
Registration will open Fall 2017

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.




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 (s.besser@uva.nl)


Conference on Frisian Humanities

The Fryske Akademy organizes its 1st Conference on Frisian Humanities

Date: 23 to 26 April 2018
Location: City Theatre “De Harmonie” in Leeuwarden

The event is part of ‘Lân fan taal’ (country of languages) of Leeuwarden-Fryslân European Capital of Culture.

The conference aims to provide a forum for scientific debate with an international perspective about language and culture in Frisian regions.

The Conference on Frisian Humanities consists of a series of five symposia, focusing on the following topics:

23-24 April

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Literature (Dutch conference)
  • Medieval Frisia

25-26 April

  • Multilingualism
  • Urban Histories

Please mark the dates on your calendar. More information (about programme content, registration as well as proposal submission) will follow soon.

Contact organization
info@frisianhumanities.nl or call +31 (0)58 2045200