Academic disciplines that focus on cultural objects (literature, visual arts, applied arts, cinema, etc.) time and again concentrate on the same aspects of cultural production and reception, such as the maker or producer of the work, the recipient of the work, the work or product in itself, the historical context of the work, the work as a representation of the world (referential function), etcetera. All of these different concepts give rise to specific methodological problems and lead to different approaches to the cultural object.
In this course, we will discuss a distinct cultural aspect or basic concept each week. In the first six weeks, we will look at the cultural object as a form of communication, guided by the various perspectives of the communication model. Following these six weeks, we will consider the cultural object as an action, focusing on the concept of performativity. We will also look at general basic concepts such as canon, genre, style, alterity and gender and diversity in relation to the notions of action and performativity.
Because it is sometimes difficult to discuss these concepts and approaches without being able to test them in relationship to works of art or literature that everybody knows, all students will read or see four works of art (selection will follow). For each seminar, students prepare a reading assignment; they will present and discuss their findings during the seminar.
Students will gain knowledge of, and insight into central concepts related to the production, reception and action of cultural products; they must be able to use these concepts (in an analysis, for instance, or as part of a theoretical exploration) when they are confronted with a selection of art works that have been selected as our common ground; they must be able to understand the heuristic, semiotic and ideological underpinning of these concepts in different disciplines; and they will deepen their comparative or theoretical handling of cultural products, while working within different conceptual frameworks. Apart from these more theoretical points, students will also train their skills in oral presentation, group discussion and writing.
Mode of instruction
Mid-term paper (max. 2000 words) (30%)
Oral presentation (20%)
Final paper (max. 3500 words) (50%)
ResMa students that take this course will write midterm and final papers that reflect the demands of the Research Master. That is, they will have to formulate more complex and original research questions than the MA students and include a critical positioning towards the state of the art of its subject.
Mid-term paper: 30%
Oral presentation: 20%
Final paper: 50%
The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.
Re-examination via the final paper.
Inspection and feedback
How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.
- Vincent B. Leitch (general editor), The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 3rd edition. New York/London: Norton & Company, 2018.
Throughout the course we will use a novel, a film and visual art as key reference points for the discussions. Therefore, students are required:
To read: Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (1927)
To watch: Breaking the Waves (Lars von Trier, 1995)
To watch: Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)
And to visit: to be announced
Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs