OSL Seminar: Europe as Narrative

Amsterdam | 6, 13, and 20 October 2021; 3, 10 and 17 November 2021 (15:00-18:00 CET) | Room: PCH 5.19 (University of Amsterdam) [NB: The seminar is planned as hybrid, but will move online if necessary]

Organizers: Prof. Dr. Margriet van der Waal (University of Groningen) and Dr. Astrid Van Weyenberg (Leiden University)
Open to: PhDs and RMA students; OSL members have first access. Interested (regular) MA students are welcome to participate, but are not able to receive official credits for the course.
Credits: 5EC. More details on the assignments will be provided at a later stage. NB: Credits can only be awarded to humanities ReMA and PhD students from Dutch universities.

Registration for the event will open in September 8, 2021.
PLEASE NOTE: When registering, please indicate (at remarks) whether you would like to attend the event onsite or online.


OSL – The Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies (OSL@rug.nl)
Prof. Dr. Margriet van der Waal (m.c.van.der.waal@rug.nl)
Dr. Astrid Van Weyenberg (a.l.b.van.weyenberg@hum.leidenuniv.nl)
For questions regarding content, please contact either Margriet or Astrid. For questions regarding practical matters, please contact the OSL office.



As Delanty (1995) reminds us, Europe is more than a geo-political reality, it is also an idea that is continuously reinvented as collective identities transform. In essence, ‘Europe’ is a signifier that different actors fill with competing narratives and meanings. But although the way in which Europe is given meaning has never been stable or unifold, in the contemporary political climate the debate about what and where ‘Europe’ is, and who Europeans are or should be, seems increasingly heated. In this debate various types of narratives about ‘Europe’ can be discerned: some refer to Europe as a culture and as a civilization, while others primarily understand Europe as a polity, de facto using it as a synonym for the EU. Within and between these different approaches, the narratives that circulate vary in terms of how Europe and who is a European is conceptualized, leading at times to severe and fundamental ideological clashes.

In this seminar we will explore different narratives of/on/about Europe. For this, we will depart from a number of questions. Firstly, how are ideas about the past utilized, for example by constructing Europe as a teleological narrative with clear historical origins, or by rewriting history in order to serve a contemporary political agenda? Secondly, how do narratives of Europe function as a space of in- and exclusion, by formulating an ‘us’ in opposition to a range of specific and less specific ‘others’? Thirdly, what do narratives of Europe tell us about the way in which Europeans are perceived, either as a homogeneous group, or diversely as a social constitution of different identities that overlap or conflict? We will approach these questions by focusing on a number of concepts that are central to how Europe is narrated: migration, Afropeanness, populism, heritage and citizenship, and future imaginaries of Europe. In our discussions, we will engage with a selection of topical theoretical texts and we will close-read different cultural objects that reflect, talk back, deconstruct and challenge specific narratives of Europe.


Study material and costs

The reading material will be announced shortly; secondary readings will be made freely available via OSL.




1)      Group presentation (40%): students give a 20-minute presentation in groups of 2 – 3 students in which they connect the theoretical texts of that session to a cultural object (i.e. text) of their own choice, by means of a close-reading of the object/text. This cultural object is made available to the other participants in advance.

2)      Research project (60%), in which students engage, individually or in pairs, with the material from at least one of the sessions (theoretical/secondary readings and discussion) and use this to close-read one cultural object of their choice. They are also required to further develop their own theoretical framework with additional theoretical sources. The project needs to contain a well-formulated research question/problem statement, as well as a convincing motivation of the relevance of the research. It needs to be situated within a broader framework of existing scholarship and to present a relevant analysis and interpretation of specific (narrative) primary material (a single case, or a selection of cases such as a novel, a film, a painting, songs, etc.).


The research project can take one of the following forms:

  • A paper of 2000-2500 words (MLA format)
  • A publishable podcast (20 minutes)
  • A video-essay (20 minutes)

In the latter two cases, the project needs to be accompanied by the full script, including references to the sources that were used


The submitted projects will be checked for plagiarism.

In order to receive the credits for this seminar, students need to obtain a minimum grade of 5,5 for the two assignments combined.

We take it that you understand the conventions of the genre you have selected for the second assignment, and that you have the required technical expertise to carry it out.



Session 1 (6/10): Introduction (Astrid and Margriet)

Session 2 (13/10): Migration (Florian Lippert, University of Groningen)

Session 3 (20/10): Black Europe/Afroeurope (TBA)

​​Session 4 (3/11): Populism in Europe (Sabine Volk, Jagiellonian University, Kraków)

Session 5 (10/11): European Heritage and Citizenship (Astrid and Margriet)

Session 6 (17/11): Imagining the future of Europe (Astrid and Margriet)

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