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Politics Through Literature: Identity With and Without Borders


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



This course uses literature and works of fiction to explore specific aspects of the broader theme of identity, especially in relation to the concept of borders. What does identity mean and what are its implications for political and social questions? How does governance shape identities? How has the idea of identity been shaped by the loosening or strengthening of borders? What role does identity serve in its relations with the world of politics and borders?

In a world that has increasingly witnessed individuals and their families uprooting themselves and moving to different places, the question of identity comes up more and more frequently in society, in politics or public policy. The reasons for people crossing borders can be varied, but the ways in which their identities are impacted by this crossing often carry fundamental implications for their own lives and for the larger society. This concept of identity also stands nowadays at the center of much political activity, from the programs of political parties to the ways in which people choose to cast their votes to how supranational institutions like the EU choose their policies.

As we embark on this course, we will read together several works of fiction that intersect with this concept of identity. It is my hope that using literature as the main medium of the course will allow us to think through a different lens about identity. By placing empathy at the center of the learning experience, the course aims to allow us to engage more in-depth with the course material and from a more creative perspective. Having to read novels as opposed to academic articles will also allow for a more slow-paced thinking about the questions that the course raises.

Course Objectives

The objectives of the course include both exposure to some critically-acclaimed works of fiction in order to engage with fundamental aspects of a specific dimension of identity, as well as the development of certain critical skills for those attending the course. These skills include not only critical thinking and writing skills, but especially communication skills as the students will be constantly challenged to engage in various forms of creative expression with each other.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will be taught primarily in a seminar format since the goal is an active engagement with the works of fiction and each other.

Assessment Method

The main assessment components are the following:

  • Class participation – 20%

  • Group creative interpretation – 40%

  • Final reflection – 40%

Reading list

The reading list will consist entirely of works of fiction. Students registered for the course will receive an email from me in January with the list of novels that constitute the required readings so that they can have that information ahead of time.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Diana Branduse,


Further details on the specific class materials and on the assignments will be provided in the syllabus.

If you have any questions about this course, please feel free to drop me an email at and I will be more than happy to have a chat with you.