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 5.59)


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:


OSL Schrijfcursus voor geesteswetenschappers – Framen, schrappen en herschrijven

Datum: 8, 10 & 11 januari 2018
Locatie: Universiteit Utrecht, zie hieronder
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.

maandag 8 januari
Tijd en zaal:
13.15- 18.00 uur | ASP200 – 011

woensdag 10 januari
Tijd en zaal:
09:00 – 12.45 uur | JK2-3 – 019
13:15 – 17.00 uur | JK15A – 001

donderdag 11 januari
Tijd en zaal:
09:00 – 10.45 uur | D21 – 104
13:15 – 17.00 uur | JK 15A – 204

voor wie Utrecht niet (goed) kent, meer info over de locaties:

Workshop – Animal Minds between Narrative and Cognition (Dec 6, SMART Animals conference, Amsterdam)

Date: Dec 6, 9:00-16:00

University of Amsterdam: University Library, Singel 425, Doelenzaal


Workshop description

Psychologists working in the wake of Jerome Bruner (1991) have argued that narrative is a key tool for constructing human selves and identities. This workshop confronts the challenges involved in engaging with nonhuman animals’ selves in narrative form. Through what stylistic and formal strategies can narrative encapsulate the lived experience of animal bodies and minds? What are the differences between fictional narratives (in literature and film) that feature animal protagonists and accounts of animal experience and behavior in scientific writing or nonfiction (such as Charles Foster’s Being a Beast)? What interpretive strategies are readers likely to adopt when engaging with these animal narratives? How, and to what extent, can narrative shape people’s beliefs and ethical views about animal life? Finally, what is the epistemological value of animal-centered narratives? How, if at all, can they contribute to the scientific understanding of animal minds?  These are questions that have been raised, more or less explicitly, in multiple areas of the humanities and the social and natural sciences: from David Herman’s (2014) “narratology beyond the human” to Bernaerts et al.’s (2014) account of “nonhuman narrators” to work on the phenomenology of human animal-interactions (Warkentin 2012). But these remain scattered and fragmentary approaches; no head-on attempt has been made so far to interrogate the potential and the limitations of animal narratives from a perspective informed by the mind.




9:00 – 9:15Welcome and introduction
9:15 – 9:40Alexa Weik von Mossner (University of Klagenfurt), “Feeling Animals? Narrative, Anthropomorphism, and the Intricacies of Trans-Species Empathy”
9:40 – 10:05Jon Hegglund (Washington State University), “Transmedial Anthropomorphism, Canine Minds, and the Limits of Experientiality”
10:05 – 10:35Discussion
10:35 – 10:50BREAK
10:50 – 11:15Hans-Johann Glock (University of Zurich), “Toads, Dogs, and Apes: Intelligence and Reasoning in Non-Human Animals”
11:15 – 11:40Simone Pollo (Sapienza University of Rome), “The Clock and the Patient: Philosophical Animals as Fictional Characters”
11:40 – 12:05Eva Meijer (University of Amsterdam), “The Politics of Animal Languages”
12:05 – 12:50Discussion
12:50 – 14:00LUNCH (not included)
14:00 – 14:25Tirza Brüggemann (Free University of Amsterdam), “The Poetry of a Horse’s Mind”
14:25 – 14:50Marco Caracciolo (Ghent University), “Flocking Together: Embodiment and Fictional Engagements with Collective Animal Minds”
14:50 – 15:20Discussion
15:20 – 15:30BREAK
15:30 – 16:00Wrap-up

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

Dates: 2 February, 16 February, 23 February (NOTE: this is a changed date), 16 March, 6 April  2018 (Friday morning or afternoon)
Time: 13.15 – 16.15
Venue: Utrecht University, Drift 25 – room 103
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

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

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)

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

ACLA pre-conference Masterclasses on Memory, New Materialism, Human Rights and Decolonized Humanism

In the run-up to the 2017 annual meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association (to take place in Utrecht July 6-9), there will be four masterclasses for Research Master students and PhD candidates.

Students registered with the following research schools are eligible: OSL, NOG, ASCA, NICA.

The masterclasses are limited to 20 participants.

In order to receive credit (1 EC), students are required to take two of these masterclasses (you can pick any combination, but you must register by 18 June 2017.
Registration: Please Note: When registering, please fill in at remarks which two masterclasses you would like to attend.

The masterclass with Prof. Joseph Slaughter is FULLY BOOKED, it’s no longer possible to register for this Masterclass.
If you want to be on our waiting list, you can send us an e-mail, including your programme, affiliation and membership national research school.

Each masterclass will take two hours and require the preparation of 2-3 articles or book chapters. The required readings will be made available to registered participants ahead of time. Please prepare the readings carefully and be ready to discuss the texts and ask productive discussion questions.

Masterclass 1: Prof. Max Silverman (Modern French Studies  – University of Leeds)

Tuesday, July 4
17.00 – 19.00
Drift 23, Room 103
Utrecht University

Palimpsestic Memory and the Art of the Invisible

Recent developments in cultural memory studies have moved away from ideas of memory as simply being linked to the shared past of a social, ethnic or national community to explore the ways in which memory ‘travels’ across communities, nations and generations, especially in the contemporary age of global communication flows. An accompanying development suggests that memory is not a fixed monument to the past but is, instead, a dynamic, productive and imaginative process which is performed in the present. In my own contribution to these debates, I have used the figure of the palimpsest and the notion of ‘noeuds de mémoire’ (knots of memory) to highlight the unstable and hybrid nature of memory as traces of different voices, times and places are interwoven, overlaid and transformed through their interaction. In this workshop we will consider the following dimensions of this more fluid and polyphonic concept of memory: temporality, ethics, narrative, politics, the affective and the performative.


Max Silverman is Professor of Modern French Studies at the University of Leeds. He works on post-Holocaust culture, postcolonial theory and cultures, and questions of memory, race and violence. His most recent monograph, entitled Palimpsestic Memory: the Holocaust and Colonialism in French and Francophone Fiction and Film (Berghahn, 2013), considered the connections between the Holocaust and colonialism in the French and Francophone cultural imaginary. He has recently published three co-edited books with Griselda Pollock on the theme of the ‘concentrationary’: Concentrationary Cinema: Aesthetics as Political Resistance in Alain Resnais’s ‘Night and Fog’ (Berghahn, 2011), Concentrationary Memories: Totalitarian Terror and Cultural Resistance (I. B. Tauris, 2014) and Concentrationary Imaginaries: Tracing Totalitarian Violence in Popular Culture (I. B. Tauris, 2015). He is currently working on the fourth and final volume in this series entitled Concentrationary Art and his next monograph entitled The Art of the Invisible.

Masterclass 2: Prof. Stathis Gourgouris (Comparative Literature – Columbia University)

Wednesday, July 5
11.00 – 13.00
Drift 23, Room 103
Utrecht University

Humanism from the Standpoint of Decolonization

While radical European thought in the second half of the 20th century turned into an explicitly anti-humanist theory in order to battle the collusion of humanist ideas with colonial power, the exact reverse happened in the historical juncture of decolonization. Radical intellectuals in the non-European tradition (from M.N. Roy to Césaire, Senghor, and Fanon, and all the way to Sylvia Wynter and Edward Said) proposed an alternative humanism — a “non-humanist humanism” in Said’s phrase — that spearheaded the battlefront against the dehumanization of the colonial experience. This decolonized humanism may be again precisely the source of resistance to posthumanist globalization.

In addition to establishing a historical trajectory, in the class we will address key texts from the negritude debates (especially Césaire and Fanon) as well as Said’s Humanism and Democratic Criticism.

Bio: Stathis Gourgouris is Professor of Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University, and author of Dream Nation (1996), Does Literature Think? (2003), and Lessons in Secular Criticism (2013). He writes and teaches on a variety of subjects that ultimately come together around questions of the poetics and politics of modernity and democracy.

Masterclass 3: Prof. Vicki Kirby (Sociology in the School of Social Sciences – UNSW Sydney)

Wednesday, July 5
15.00 – 17.00
Drift 23, Room 103
Utrecht University

New Materialism: a Problem Resolved or Displaced?

The interventionary importance of new materialist strategies is often explained as a corrective to the over-reach of the linguistic turn and an acknowledgement of the failures of constructionist arguments. A consequence of this freeing up has been a more robust engagement with the sciences, with plants, animals, climate change, geology and even physics. Not surprisingly, the critique of human exceptionalism is an inevitable corollary of this turning outward and away from what now appears as human solipsism. Does this more generous and inclusive vision, with its liberation of analytical methodologies and research “objects,” effectively trump the insights and complexities of the linguistic turn in ways that exceed mere assertion? Where is the reference point that will anchor our evaluation?  And should we care if we can’t find one?


Vicki Kirby is Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, UNSW Sydney.  She is a prominent figure in feminist and new materialist debates and in recent attempts to review the work of Jacques Derrida in vitalist terms.  More recent books include (ed.) What If Culture Was Nature All Along? (Edinburgh University Press) and Quantum Anthropologies: Life at Large (Duke).  She has articles forthcoming in PhiloSophiaJournal for the Theory of Social Behaviour and a chapter in David Woods et al. eds., Eco-Deconstruction (Fordham UP)


  • (2017) Kirby, Vicki, “Matter out of Place: ‘New Materialism’ in review” in Vicki Kirby (ed.), What if Culture was really Nature all along? Edinburgh University Press. pp. 1-25.
  • (2015) Kirby, Vicki “Transgression: normativity’s self-inversion” differences: a journal of feminist cultural studies Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 96-116.
  • (2006) Kirby, Vicki, “Language, Power, Performativity – Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’” in Vicki Kirby, Judith Butler: Live Theory Continuum. pp. 65-85.

Masterclass 4: Prof. Joseph Slaughter (English and Comparative Literature – Columbia University) – FULLY BOOKED

Thursday, July 6
11.00 – 13.00
Drift 23, Room 103
Utrecht University

Literature, Human Rights, and Neoliberalism; or, What’s Wrong with Empathy?

Most literature and many legal scholars seem to agree that “the historic mission of ‘contemporary’ human rights is to give voice to human suffering, to make it visible, and to ameliorate it,” as Upendra Baxi has written. In the face of a general consensus that human rights are about storytelling, we should consider the role played by the so-called narrative turn in narrowing ideas of human rights to the suffering of individuals and in promoting personal sympathy as the proper response to it. The “narrative turn” in human rights can be tracked to the 1970s, when personal stories and appeals to empathy became (the) primary tools in much Western human rights work—best emblematized, perhaps, in the efforts of groups such as Amnesty International that encouraged individuals to enter into imaginary empathetic relationships with the injuries of distant others. This seminar will consider some of the costs of this narrative turn: what are the consequences for human rights? what has this done to literature? are we defending literary studies (and the humanities more generally) in terms that promote the neoliberalization of a moral economy?


Joseph Slaughter is currently President of the American Comparative Literature Association. He teaches postcolonial literature and theory, human rights, and third-world approaches to international law in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He has published numerous articles on African and Latin American literature, human rights, and intellectual property. His book Human Rights, Inc: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law, which excavates the shared logic underpinning human rights law and the form and ideology of the Bildungsroman, won the 2008 René Wellek Prize for Comparative Literature and Cultural Theory. He is finishing two books: New Word Orders, on intellectual property and world literature, and Pathetic Fallacies, a collection of essays on human rights and the humanities.