Masterclass with prof. Rita Felski – “Comparison and (Post)critique. Method and Engagement in Literary Studies”

Date: Friday, June 8, 2018
Location: University of Groningen, location TBA
For: PhD candidates and RMA students (OSL members have first access; limited to 12 participants).
Organisation: Jesse van Amelsvoort and Ruby de Vos (University of Groningen)
Credits: 1 EC

Ever since Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Bruno Latour forcefully have called into question the dominance of established modes of critique, there has been debate among literary and cultural scholars on the meaning and orientation of reading and critique. In recent years, Rita Felski’s work in Uses of Literature (2008) and The Limits of Critique (2015) has been at the centre of these discussions. The purpose of this master class is to think about the future of critique, criticism and reading in our own academic work, and to ask how these new avenues of thought and practice might be put to work for societal engagement and valorisation.

In an academic and societal environment that seems increasingly geared towards a (social) scientific understanding of methods and methodology, literary scholar can find it difficult to legitimate how they ‘do’ their discipline. Arguments grounded in established practices of critique do not always make for an easy fit with the general public’s knowledge and expectations. Consequently, humanities voices are disappearing from public debates, problematically creating the image of intellectual poverty and social uselessness. Therefore, this master class will ask whether and to what extent new, postcritical methods might create new possibilities for engagement with the public beyond the walls of the academy.

The master class aims not only to facilitate interaction and dialogue among the participants, but also explicitly encourages them to actively search for new ways of reading and criticism and include them in their research projects.


  • To think about methods, especially what is usually referred to as ‘reading’, in literary and cultural studies research;
  • To think more specifically about the relevance of critique and postcritique;
  • To create and foster a community of RMa and PhD students who are interested in participating in and furthering methodological discussions within literary studies.

Application and preparation

Aspiring participants apply by submitting a half page letter of motivation, which includes a description of their research project or interests, the role that matters of critique play in their research and 2-3 questions or points they would like to discuss during the master class. These questions will be send to Professor Felski as points of reference for her short workshop lecture and interaction with the participants. In response to the questions, Professor Felski will set around 60-80 pages of assigned readings for the participants, who are required to have read these before coming to the master class. Send your application to by April 15, 2018 (subject: Master class Felski). For questions about the event please contact Ruby de Vos (

Set-up and schedule*

The day starts with a public lecture (11-13 hrs, to be confirmed) by Rita Felski, attendance of which is required for the participants of the master class. After lunch, the participants convene to prepare the workshop and take stock of their questions. At 15:00, Rita Felski joins the group for a brief lecture and discussion of the questions and assigned readings.

11:00–13:00    Public lecture by Professor Felski
13:00–14:00    Lunch
14:00–14:50    Preparation of the masterclass (chair: Ruby de Vos)
14:50–15:00    Coffee break
15:00                   Short lecture by Rita Felski and response by Roel Smeets, followed by general discussion
(chair: Jesse van Amelsvoort)
17:00                    Drinks

*schedule might be subject to change