Research Master Humanities, Program Literature and Contested Spaces

In this Research Master specialization, you examine the roles literary texts play in the representation and shaping of contested spaces. Novels, poems, and plays shape our perceptions and affect our lived experience of such spaces as the nation, wilderness, or the body. These spaces are contested in our current context, and have been in the past centuries. In our seminars, tutorials and individual research projects, you explore how literary texts have played a role in shaping our experience of such contested spaces. In this specialization, you pursue your fascination with the ways in which literary representations interact with real or imagined spaces, geographies and ecosystems. You focus on literature and three kinds of contested space: the (trans)national, the environment, and the body. We welcome students who are keen to hone their critical thinking and research skills in this field; we offer you the chance to pursue your research interests under the guidance of specialists in the field.

In the Literature & Contested Spaces Research Master programme, you examine the roles literary texts play in the representation and shaping of contested spaces. Novels, poems, and plays shape our perceptions and affect our lived experience of such spaces as the nation, wilderness, or the body. These spaces are contested in our current context, and have been in the past centuries. In our seminars, tutorials and individual research projects, you explore how literary texts have played a role in shaping our experience of such contested spaces. In this specialization, you pursue your fascination with the ways in which literary representations interact with real or imagined spaces, geographies and ecosystems. You focus on literature and three kinds of contested space: the (trans)national, the environment, and the body. We welcome students who are keen to hone their critical thinking and research skills in this field; we offer you the chance to pursue your research interests under the guidance of specialists in the field.
 
The (trans)national as contested space 
The role of the nation state and its connection to supranational organizations is one of the most hotly debated issues in politics today. As Brexit and the current American elections show, the sovereignty of the nation state may be making a comeback. Yet political developments can also be read as reactions to an unstoppable globalizing process that has accelerated since the twentieth century, and which has had an impact on the canon, on our student population, and our curriculum. In the wake of the transnational turn that has questioned mononational narratives of literature, we study literature in the understanding that issues of nationality, transnationalism, regionalism, race, and ethnicity are contested spaces that invite constant redrawing. Literature can be read as reflecting as well as shaping this dynamic interplay historically and as a space where these tensions can be tested and discussed today. 

Space, place and environment 
When astronauts on the Apollo 17 took this photo of the Earth as a small blue planet surrounded by infinite space, they sparked a sense of belonging that grew into the environmental movement. Like photos, literary texts shape our perceptions of the spaces we live in, expressing and affecting our connections to our environment. This spatial perspective is fully integrated into your ecocritical readings of literature’s role in shaping and contesting ideas of wilderness, interconnectedness, and belonging. In our ecocriticism courses, you explore literary as well as visual representations of the relations between humans and their environment from the early modern period until now. You learn to think about the role scale and perceptions of space play in environmental awareness, and the ways literature can foster a sense of connection with places. 

Mapping the body 
Like the nation and ecology, the body -- whether human or animal – is a contested space. While dominated in Western cultures by the Cartesian distinction between body and mind for centuries, various discussions about the classification, demarcation, function, and nature of the body have taken root since the last century. These have intensified in this century as a result of new scientific discoveries, new and anticipated future technological developments, and the influence of non-Western cultures. We are principally concerned with the literary and visual representation of the body as being gendered, enslaved, traumatized, and having agency or not, and the relationship with hegemonic discourses in society, from early modern times to now. We are, in other words, interested in the notion of life as an embodied experience, and how literary forms provide a space to foreground that issue. We welcome students who are eager to work in that area. 

Electives 
In the first year, next to the core courses and modules in the Humanities Research Master, you also choose 4 MA courses offered by the department, or opt for a course from other departments in the faculty (see below). Three of our MA courses have a specific spatial focus, and are therefore recommended in the schedule above: 

Place and Planet in the Anthropocene
 
In this course, you explore how recent novels respond to our changing sense of planet in the context of the current climate crisis. Geologists have suggested that the current era be named the ‘Anthropocene’ to mark human’s overwhelming impact on the earth. We analyze literary texts from the perspective of questions of space, place, and environment to see how what Adam Trexler has called Anthropocene fictions respond to this increasing awareness of human impact on the planet. Using concepts such as sense of place, interconnectedness, belonging, and hyperobject, we explore how novels shape new ways of inhabiting our planet in the current climate crisis. 

The Diasporic Experience 

This course examines literary and visual texts that originate in a wide variety of North American diasporic cultures, and that have triggered new ways of thinking about life after migration. In their narratives and imagery of diaspora life, do authors and artists relate similar (chronological) outlines of displacement, uprootedness, intercultural encounters, transculturation and cultural hybridization? Or have they come up with new and innovative (non)plots and imageries? How do gender, race, ethnicity and nationality intersect in their projects? 

Gothic Spaces 

The Gothic as a literary genre has undergone several defined phases of ‘production, style and representation’ since the eighteenth century. The course ‘Gothic Spaces’ will examine how important the concept of ‘space’ has been in this development of the genre. Specifically, we will look at how the Gothic problematizes the relationship between ideas of place in terms of cultural, geographical and as an abstract location of meaning and examine the ways in which Gothic spaces are almost always ambiguous and liminal-a characteristic that might explain our enduring interest in the genre.

Electives outside the department 
In addition to these courses, you may either choose another course from our regular MA programme, or opt for a course with a spatial perspective offered by another department, for example the course Biography of Landscape (6 EC, period 2) in the Landscape and Heritage module of the Research Master Classics and Ancient Civilizations, or a course in the specialization Migration and Mobility in the MA History, which focuses on the history of a mobile world in which migration, travel, tourism and pilgrimage have always been central to human interactions and identities, linking that history to contemporary politics.

Programme overview

Teaching and Examination Regulations (in Dutch) on VUnet (inlog)


 

 
Naam vak Periode Credits Code Pdf
Place and Planet in the Anthropocene Periode 1 6.0 L_ELMALTK001
Digital and Environmental Humanities Periode 2 6.0 L_AAMPALG007
Core Course National Historiographies and Contested Heritage Periode 2+3 9.0 L_AAMPALG008
Humanities in Society Periode 4 6.0 L_AAMPALG005
The Diasporic Experience: Ethnic Cultures of America Periode 4 6.0 L_ELMAENG014
Gothic Spaces Periode 5 6.0 L_ELMALTK004
Core Course Contesting Spaces Periode 5+6 9.0 L_AAMPALG011
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