Academic disciplines that focus on cultural objects and media (literature, visual arts, applied arts, games, social-media, cinema, etc.) time and again concentrate on the same aspects of cultural production and reception, such as the author/maker of the work, the reader/ viewer of the work, the work or product in itself, the historical context of the work, the work as a representation of the world (i.e., its referential function), or as the original construct of an individual artist within a specific tradition etcetera. All of these different concepts give rise to specific methodological problems and lead to different approaches to the cultural object that need to be critically discussed.
In this course, we will discuss one or more distinct cultural aspects or basic concepts each week. In the first few weeks, we will look at the cultural object as a form of communication, guided by the various perspectives such as that of, for instance the author and the reader. In the weeks following we will look at the cultural object as a means to address specific concepts that relate to political, societal, cultural and aesthetic debates. We will discuss how cultural objects, and the concepts we use with which we approach them, have a history and whose meaning is shaped by that history. But we will also aim to understand how concepts can travel from discipline to discipline in which they can become productive for academic research in new and different ways. Moreover, this more flexible notion on what a concept entails challenges us to reconsider previous notions and functions of concepts such as they have been used in academic research on the visual arts, media and literature. Therefore, we will also look afresh at more general and often taken for granted concepts such as style and value. Both the cultural object at stake as well as the methodological concept from which we approach the object as academics we regard as highly performative.
Because we want to discuss these concepts and approaches in relationship to works of arts, media and literature that everybody knows, all students will read or see at least three cultural objects. 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;
students learn to use these concepts (in an analysis, for instance, or as part of a theoretical exploration) when they are confronted with a selection of works of visual art, media and literature that have been selected as our common ground;
students learn to understand the heuristic, semiotic and ideological underpinning of these concepts in different disciplines;
students will deepen their comparative or theoretical handling of cultural products, while working within different conceptual frameworks;
students will further develop their skills in oral presentation, group discussion and writing.
The timetables are available through My Timetable
Mode of instruction
Mid-term paper (max. 2000 words) (30%)
Oral presentation (20%)
Final paper (max. 3500 words) (50%)
Mid-term paper: 30%
Oral presentation: 20%
Final paper: 50%
The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average. To pass the course the weighted average must be at least a 6.0 (a weighted average between 5.0 and 5.4 will be rounded to a 5, a weighted average between 5.5 and 5.9 will be rounded to a 6.0). Individual grades for the mid-term, oral presentation and final paper must not be lower than 5.5 regardless the weighted average.
Both the mid-term and the final paper can be rewritten as a resit. In case of failing or missing out on the oral presentation a replacement assignment should be requested at the Board of Examiners.
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
Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.
Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs
For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.
For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal