Idealism as an Option for Literary Criticism Today

In this master class, professor Roche will discuss a number of questions that he will address in an upcoming volume on “Idealism Today.” More specifically, he will expand on the ways in which his own orientation as a literary critic has—somewhat anomalously in the contemporary academic landscape—been oriented towards the German idealist tradition, but in a systematic rather than simply historical way. Among his key scholarly aims ranks the striving to make idealist categories relevant for the analysis of, among other objects of study, tragedy and comedy, the value of literature in the technology, and the aesthetics of the ugly. This aim—and the role that idealism can fulfill in literary criticism today—will be central to the master class, which consists of a 45-minute lecture and a 30-minute group discussion. In the follow-up section students of the RMA Literary Studies will give Pecha Kucha presentations in response to Roche’s work. Other students who participate in the master class are warmly invited to attend these presentations as well.

Mark Roche is professor of German Language and Literature and Concurrent Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Roche has published widely both on German literature and on philosophy, film, and higher education. His two most recent books are Why Choose the Liberal Arts? (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010) —a book that the Association of American Colleges and Universities endowed with the 2012 Frederic W. Ness Book Award—and Why Literature Matters in the 21st Century (Yale University Press, 2004), which was chosen as an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine. Those who plan to attend the workshop may also be interested to know that at his institution, professor Roche won two Awards for Excellence in teaching.


Students are asked to read and discuss in class the following texts by Roche. The material will be made available for the students who register for the course:

  • “The Greatness and Limits of Hegel’s Theory of Tragedy.” In A Companion to Tragedy (Rebecca Bushnell, ed.), Blackwell 2009, pp. 51-67.
  • “Chapter 1: Introduction,” and “Chapter 4: Contemporary Models.” In Roche’s Why Literature Matters in the 21st Century, Yale University Press 2004, pp. 1-13 & 87-121.
  • “The Function of the Ugly in Enhancing the Expressivity of Art.” In The Many Faces of Beauty (Vittorio Hoesle, ed.), University of Notre Dame Press, 2013, pp. 327-55.


Apart from reading and preparing discussion input for the texts by Roche, participants of the master class are required to submit a 500-word reading review of the texts via email at professor Ellen Rutten ( no later than the evening of June 14. In the reading reviews, they are asked to formulate their own answer to Roche’s question: is idealism an option in literary criticism today?

Registration and contact:

Students who plan to participate in the master class are asked to register by emailing professor Ellen Rutten ( and the OSL-office ( no later than June 13. The master class is organized by a student committee; its members Lotte Timmermans (, Jacqueline van der Vent ( and Agnes Kes ( can be contacted for other questions related to the event.