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Holocaust Icons in Arts, Film and Literature (minor)


Admission requirements

Propedeuse Humanities


There is hardly an event thinkable that could be more important for European cultural memory than the Shoah. This cultural memory of the Shoah is produced by films, books and material media in museums and in public space. We know about 'that what happened', as the poet Paul Celan called it, through testimonies such as Primo Levi's If This Is a Man or by documentaries such as Lanzmanns Shoah.

Apart from non-fiction objects like those, we will also analyse works of literature, popular movies such as Schindler’s List, or artworks, museums and rituals performed at memorial sites. In the dual context of both memory studies and representation analysis we will look at the different functions and effects that such works had in the construction of cultural memory.

In this interactive seminar, the central topics and concepts of memory of violence will be discussed: remembrance and oblivion, truth and narrative, documentation and the (digital) archive, sacralisation and irony, truth and autobiography, aura and authenticity, and the function of mass-media and social media. Among the cases discussed will be sites like 'Nationaal Holocaustmuseum' and the Anne Frank House, digital memorials such as the online Jewish monument, work by Abel Herzberg, Primo Levi, Art Spiegelman, Yael Bartana and Charlotte Delbo, films and their critical reception.

Representation analysis will demonstrate in which ways a memory of the Shoah is constructed and how trauma manifests itself in art and literature. Theoretical texts by Saul Friedländer, Oren Baruch Stier, Hillary Chute, Andreas Huyssen, Ernst van Alphen, James E. Young, Aleida Assmann and Anne Whitehead will be used in our analyses.

Course Objectives

  • You will be able to define the basic concepts of Memory studies and of cultural analysis.

  • You can recognize the different ways in which memory may be produced in art, film and literature and digital media.

  • You understand the cultural and political dynamics in the representation and remembrance of historical events.

  • You can recognize and evaluate the icons, idols, strategies and clichés of Holocaust representation.

  • In this course, you will also be able write and present well argumented and theoretically strong analyses and interpretations of such works.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Excursion to the Hollandse Schouwburg and/or the Anne Frankhouse in Amsterdam.

Course Load

140 hours:

  • Seminars: 42 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature and preparing the assignments: 46 hours

  • Time to prepare your sessions: 12

  • Time to write a paper (including reading / research): 40 hours

Assessment method

Assessment and grading method (in percentages):.

Essay (50%)
Weekly assignments (30%)
Presentation and research plan (20%)

For each part of the assessment at least a 5.5 should be obtained. The final grade is the weighted average of all grades. Only the paper has a resit possibility.


Only the paper has a resit possibility

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.

Reading list

If you want, you are welcome to begin reading these titels over the summer, to reduce the work load during term. Please be aware that is not helpful for the future of bookstores. You can order at local Leiden booksellers or academic bookstores: they will be happy to send your books to your home address too!

  • Primo Levi, If this is a man. Translation Stuart Woolf. (In any language)

  • Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. (In any language)

  • Art Spiegelman, Maus, 2 parts. (In any language)

  • Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank. (In any language)
    Further reading will be announced in class.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren a la carte

Registration Studeren à la carte


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal


Students with doubts about the level of their English should consider taking an autumn course here. If that is not possible, please contact ‘the lecturer of the course’.