Workshop ‘Literature, fieldwork, and the social sciences’

13-14 March 2018
Maastricht University
Grote Gracht 80-82 (Soiron building), Spiegelzaal (first floor)

Credit for RMA students: 1 EC

Please, register by February 25, 2018, by sending your name, affiliation and day(s) you will attend to with the subject Workshop March.


Bringing together an international group of specialists, this workshop reflects on the role of literary and cultural studies in the contemporary humanities and on potential collaborations with colleagues from the social sciences who use qualitative methods like interviewing and fieldwork. This is a timely topic, as is shown by special issues devoted to ‘description across disciplines’ and ‘postcritique’ (Representations, 2016; PMLA, 2017) as well as by recent publications of scholars like Amy Hungerford, Margaret Mackey, Shalini Puri, Heather Love, Rita Felski, Ivan Jablonka and many others. These articles and research projects are different in various ways, but they share the ambition to develop new paths for literary studies with the help of insights from the social sciences, to develop future forms of ‘fieldwork’, broadly construed. Our workshop aims to map these new paths and set the agenda for new collaborations between literature, literary studies, and the social sciences. We would like to tackle questions like the following: what role does literary studies play in the contemporary humanities? Which insights from the social sciences can help us to rethink contemporary literature and literary studies? What themes, methods, and histories connect literary studies and the social sciences? How have novelists and other writers picked up on these ideas, and used/criticized them? How does a social sciences approach to novels, poems, and other cultural artifacts differ from a literary approach, and how can they enrich each other?


Tuesday 12 March 2018

11.00 welcome by the organizers
11.15-12.30 Amy Hungerford
12.30-14.00 lunch
14.00-14.45 Aagje Swinnen
14.45-15.30 Miriam Meissner
15.30-16.00 break
16.00-17.00 Marco Caracciolo and Susannah Crockford
17.00-17.15 break
17.15-18.15 Odile Heynders

Wednesday 14 March 2018

10.00-11.15 Shalini Puri
11.15-11.30 break
11.30-12.15 Emilie Sitzia
12.15-13.45 lunch
13.45-14.30 Gaston Franssen
14.30-15.15 Leni Van Goidsenhoven
15.15-15.30 break
15.30-16.45 Margaret Mackey
16.45-17.00 break
17.00-18.00 Lies Wesseling


  • Amy Hungerford (Yale University) has recently published an important study of contemporary literature that combines traditional approaches with ethnographic techniques like interviewing and participant observation (Making Literature Now, Stanford, 2016). She is also Dean of the Humanities Division at Yale.
  • Margaret Mackey (University of Alberta) has published widely on the subject of young people’s reading. Her most recent work is an interdisciplinary ‘auto-bibliography’ that describes and explains her development as a reader from the 1950s onwards, combining insights from textual criticism, social analysis, and reading theory (One Child Reading, University of Alberta Press, 2016).
  • Shalini Puri (University of Pittsburgh) works on postcolonial theory and cultural studies of the global South, with a special focus on the Caribbean and on cultural practices related to the overlapping African and Asian diasporas. She has recently coedited Theorizing Fieldwork in the Humanities (Palgrave, 2016).
  • Marco Caracciolo (Ghent University) is lead researcher on an ERC starting grant project which brings together literary studies and narrative approaches in the social sciences to analyze how literary fiction as well as oral narratives by members of the public imagine relations between humans and nonhumans in the context of a global environmental crisis. His publications include Strange Narrators in Contemporary Fiction (University of Nebraska Press, 2016) and A Passion for Specificity: Confronting Inner Experience in Literature and Science (Ohio State UP, 2016).
  • Gaston Franssen (University of Amsterdam) is a literary scholar whose recent research examines celebrity culture, illness narratives, and therapeutic uses of fiction, paying special attention to how these social phenomena shape the selves of authors and readers. He recently co-edited Celebrity Authorship and Afterlives in English and American Literature (Palgrave, 2016).
  • Odile Heijnders (Tilburg University) studies contemporary literature in relation to theories of democracy, the public sphere, and the public intellectual. She is the author of Writers as Public Intellectuals: Literature, Celebrity, Democracy (Palgrave, 2015).
  • Leni Van Goidsenhoven (Leuven University) wrote her Phd on self-presentations of people living with autism in print and online (Autisme in veelvoud: het potentieel van life writing voor alternatieve vormen van subjectiviteit, 2017). Her work is situated at the intersection of literary and disability studies.
  • The scholars from Maastricht University who are involved in this workshop are affiliated with the interdisciplinary research program Arts, Media, and Culture (

Registration and credits

Members of the Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies (Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies/OSL) are invited to participate in the workshop. OSL RMA students can acquire 1 ECTS by

  • Attending a workshop day of their choice,
  • Preparing questions for the speakers in relation to an 80-page-reader that will be send upon registration,
  • Write a 800-word response to one of the lectures after the workshop in light of the future of literary studies.

Please, register by February 25, 2018, by sending your name, affiliation and day(s) you will attend to with the subject Workshop March.