Sasha Richman | In Search of Meaning in a World of Images: Photographic Imaginaries in the Works of Willem Frederik Hermans, Wright Morris, and Michel Tournier

Sasha Richman | University of Groningen, University of Strasbourg (double PhD) | In Search of Meaning in a World of Images: Photographic Imaginaries in the Works of Willem Frederik Hermans, Wright Morris, and Michel Tournier | Supervisors: Prof. dr. Mathijs Sanders (RUG), Prof. dr. Patrick Werly (Strasbourg) | 1 November 2021 – 31 October 2025

This project proposes a comparative study of photography in the works of Dutch writer Willem Frederik Hermans, American writer and photographer Wright Morris, and French writer Michel Tournier. The intermedial study aims to understand how photography, as a motif, a means, and a practice, informs the writers’ notions of realism and reality. By examining the role and representation of the motif of photography, the possible relationships between photography’s use as a motif and its use in each writer’s respective ‘photo-text’ books that combine photographic images with text, the proposed research aims to understand how the works raise new questions about thinking and conceptualizing representation and photography.

Gepco de Jong | Kritisch denken: een innovatief concept voor het literatuuronderwijs

Gepco de Jong | Kritisch denken: een innovatief concept voor het literatuuronderwijs | Universiteit Leiden (Tilburg University) | Promotor/ co-promotoren: Prof. dr. Yra van Dijk (promotor), Dr. Sander Bax (co-promotor) & Dr. Rian Aarts (co-promotor) | September 2021 – Mei 2025

Literatuuronderwijs laat de leerling kennismaken met situaties buiten de eigen leefwereld en is daarmee een belangrijke schakel in de persoonsvorming. Een sterk ontwikkelde kritische denkvaardigheid is een onmisbare factor in dit proces. Kritisch denken is een nuttig instrument in het literatuuronderwijs, maar daarnaast ook een essentiële academische vaardigheid waarvan de ontwikkeling vroegtijdig moet worden ingezet. Dit onderzoek adresseert de implementatie van kritisch denken in het literatuuronderwijs, met als doel het kritisch denkvermogen van de leerlingen te versterken en daarmee de literaire competentie van de leerling te verbeteren.

De opbrengst van dit onderzoek is een theoretisch onderbouwd didactisch concept én lesmateriaal waarin het bewust kritisch denken gestimuleerd wordt. Docenten kunnen concept en materiaal inzetten in de verschillende fases van de leesontwikkeling van de leerling. Tijdens het gehele onderzoek wordt gewerkt vanuit de principes van Educational Design Research. Deze methodiek zorgt voor een structurele evaluatie en de daaropvolgende bijstelling.

 

Tianran Zhang | Fluid Heterotopias: Gendered Bodies and Spaces in Modern British and Chinese Women’s Writing

Tianran Zhang | Fluid Heterotopias: Gendered Bodies and Spaces in Modern British and Chinese Women’s Writing | University of Amsterdam | Supervisors: Dr. Ben Moore and Prof. Dr. Carrol Clarkson | 1 September 2021 — 1 September 2025.

This project focuses on gendered bodies and spaces in modern British and Chinese women’s writing and examines how they perform as sites that inspire female consciousness and accommodate alternative modernities. Drawing on Michel Foucault and Elizabeth Grosz’s theories on geography, space and the body, it analyzes how the narratives of interactions between gendered bodies and spaces shift across the 1900s to the 1960s, thereby revealing how female individuals are positioned in the grid of power relations and how they can transform spatial hierarchies and demonstrate alternatives to the dominant narratives of patriarchy, hierarchy, and colonialism.

Judith Jansma | From Submission to Soumission: Populist Perspectives on Culture

Judith Jansma | From Submission to Soumission: Populist Perspectives on Culture | University of Groningen, Faculty of Art, Graduate School for the Humanities (GSH) | Prof. dr. P. Valdivia Martín, Prof. dr. L.P. Rensmann, Dr. A. Godioli | September 1st 2017 – August 30th 2021 | j.f.jansma@rug.nl

 

The PhD Ceremony will take place on Thursday 9 December 2021 at 12:45, and can be followed via this link.

 

In today’s political discourse the idea of a culturally-grounded national identity has made a strong come-back. One can think of Theresa May’s (in)famous  statement that “citizens of the world are actually citizens of nowhere”, or Dutch Christian-democratic party CDA insisting on the integration of the national hymn in the primary school curriculum. Yet this adherence to national identity as a way to deal with complex societal challenges (globalization, multiculturalism) is performed to a much greater extent by populist parties associated with the far right. Their understanding of citizenship being based on the notion of “ethnos” rather than “demos” – leading to a strong “us vs. them” narrative – it should not come as a surprise that culture is an important tool to unite “us” and to exclude “them”.

Therefore, my research project looks at ways in which populist discourse engages with culture. Two research questions are central:

  1. Mapping the use of cultural references in the Netherlands and France: what images, cultural institutions and products do populists identify with or promote?
  2. From Theo van Gogh to Houellebecq: How did populist actors contribute to the public debate surrounding controversial works and authors?

My earlier case study on Soumission  has demonstrated that the novel was interpreted by the Front National as a warning sign for the near future, holding both the elites and the “others” accountable for France’s (fictional) Islamization. However, it is clear that this reading uses the populist tools of simplification and polarization, thereby neglecting the novel’s literary complexity.

Jiang Ye | Cross-Cultural Writing: Chinese Fan Fiction on the English World

Jiang Ye | Cross-Cultural Writing: Chinese Fan Fiction on the English World | School of Asian Studies, The Leiden University Institute for Area Studies | Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Maghiel van Crevel | 01-10-2019 to 30-09-2023

 

My project focuses on Chinese fan fiction written by Chinese young female based on English source texts. It asks how this collective writing behaviour that crosses cultural borders in a unique way can realise Chinese young female’s subjectivities. In four case studies, I will focus on four different identifications in which the said subjectivities emerge through the authors’ agency. I will both close-read the texts and invoke the bigger picture of overarching tropes and media.

Andries Hiskes | Disability and its Affective Affordances: Deformity, Decay, Disruption, Distortion

Andries Hiskes | Disability and its Affective Affordances: Deformity, Decay, Disruption, Distortion | Leiden University | Supervisors: Prof. dr. Frans-Willem Korsten, dr. Jules Sturm | 1 May 2018 – 30 April 2023
Bodies considered disabled or defomed may elicit strong affective or emotional reactions. They can shock us, evoke disgust or sympathy, or we might wonder at them for example. Through the lens of four key concepts (Deformity, Decay, Disruption, Distortion), this project examines contemporary literature and art in which such affective reactions to these “deviant” bodies are depicted. It particularly focuses on the relationship between the formal dimension of the work (how is the text constructed?) and the way in which affective responses are told or represented — and also what is not represented or may be read as being ‘absent’ in a particular representation.
This project aims to aid in the development of the ways in which we can close read affective responses to disability in literary texts and cultural artefacts. Additionally, as this project intersects disability studies, aesthetics, and affect theory, it places these fields in conversation with one another.

Rose Smith | Hegemonic European Communist memory narratives in Central European Museums

Rose Smith | Hegemonic European Communist memory narratives in Central European Museums | University of Groningen | Supervisor: Prof. dr Pablo Valdivia

This dissertation aims to critically scrutinize how transnational knowledge bases create a hegemonic European Communist memory narrative in museums. It fills a conceptual and empirical gap in the field of memory studies. First, the concept of mnemonic hegemony, though has been used by various scholars in memory studies, has not yet been properly developed; thus, it opens up an analytic optic that specifically focuses on mnemonic power struggles for obtaining a special advantage or authority. Second, while there is a substantial amount of research on the European memory of Communism, the transnational network organizations of European memory, as well as the museums of Communism, there is no research that specifically deals with how museum members of the Platform for European Conscience narrate Communist past.

The objectives of this research is to (a) further develops the conceptualization of “mnemonic hegemony”, (b) analyze whether a European Communist past is hegemonic in European-level policies and debates, (c) deconstruct the narrative of the European Communist past in museums that are members of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience, (d) conduct interviews with the museum’s curators and researchers regarding the (memory) narrative of the museum, and (e) compare these (memory) narrations with those in museums that claim to have or are supposed to have a more national or commercial focus. Thus, the research asks how a particular narrative of the European Communist past is hegemonic in museums of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.

This research operates within geographical, institutional, theoretical, and temporal scopes. First, it focuses on Central European states, namely the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Second, it focuses mainly on the museum members of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience. Third, it operates within the post-structuralist paradigm. Fourth, the data it analyses are those available during the writing of this dissertation, specifically from 2019 to 2023.

Francine Maessen | Identiteit en de representatie van trauma in het literaire oeuvre van Breyten Breytenbach

Francine Maessen | Identiteit en de representatie van trauma in het literaire oeuvre van Breyten Breytenbach | Universiteit van Amsterdam | Promotor: prof. dr. M.C. van der Waal (UvA)
Dit onderzoek bekijkt de invloed van hoe identiteit geconstrueerd wordt in het geschreven oeuvre van de Zuid-Afrikaanse schrijver en kunstenaar Breyten Breytenbach op de representatie van trauma in zijn werk. Hiervoor wordt gekeken naar belangrijke invloeden op de construcutie van identiteit in zijn werk, zoals het Zen Boeddhisme, Breytenbachs eigen concept van basterskap als het aankomt op de Afrikaner identiteit, en het rhizomatische denken van bijvoorbeeld Édouard Glissant en Gilles Deleuze. Vervolgens wordt gekeken hoe deze concepten de representatie van trauma in dit oeuvre beïnvloeden.

Paola Gonzalez Salas | Visual memories of Anibal pinto square and Temuco´s train station between 1930-1950

Paola Gonzalez Salas | Visual memories of Anibal pinto square and Temuco´s train station between 1930-1950: A virtual reconstruction based on digital narratives. | University of Groningen, Faculty of Arts, Graduate School for the Humanities (GSH) | Prof. Dr Pablo Valdivia Martín, Dr. Florian Lippert, Dr. Hugh McDonnell, Dr. Konstantin Mierau

This PhD research aims to explore the cultural narratives in two areas of the city of Temuco (Chile) between 1930 and 1950 and how the imposition of foreign constructions and non-violently dynamics contributed to the invisibilisation of the indigenous culture of the zone.

For the development of this research, I will work with historical archives, press archives, image analysis and interviews/surveys with local people.

The research will lead to the design of an interactive 3D application, which will reconstruct the Anibal Pinto Square and the Railway Station between 1930 and 1950, to be explored in first person, seeking the re-signification of heritage spaces and the revaluation of the city’s history and its culture.

Juan Gallego Benot | How did rhetorical invention in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation shape a conflicting idea of Modernity?

Juan Gallego Benot | How did rhetorical invention in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation shape a conflicting idea of Modernity? An analysis of the discursive construction of a new European society | University of Groningen | Supervisors: Prof. P. Valdivia, Prof. T. Albaladejo Mayordomo & dr. A. Godioli | Duration: 1 December 2020 – 30 November 2024

By analysing the rhetorical devices and structures of different textual sources from the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, this project aims to understand the importance of Rhetoric in developing a sense of Modernity in Europe. This comparative analysis will try to answer some of the following questions: Is it possible to trace a Rhetoric, which is an expression aiming to persuade others, that is specific of the Reformation and of the Counter-Reformation? Were texts produced during these two revolutions inside the Church not only a matter of the so-called “content”, but more importantly, a matter of ways in which these texts were designed to be communicated and spread? Would we get a different picture of the political structures shaping Europe if we analysed those events by focusing on their modes of expression?