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Modern/Contemp. Studies: The Sixties, Literature and Art in the Expanded Field


Admission requirements

BA degree in art history, literary studies, specific language and culture BA, or Media studies.


The course will concentrate on the art and literature of the 1960s, a period of structural transformation within the overlapping fields of cultural, political and socio-economic practice. The sixties, in Europe and beyond, were characterized by wide-spread social and cultural experimentation, producing, to name a few examples, ‘postmodernist’ authors such as John Barth, the New Wave movement of science fiction (e.g. J.G. Ballard), pop art, minimalism and conceptual art, and structuralist and post-structuralist theory, not to mention the emergence of new political movements, such as the Situationist International, the Provos, feminism, the anti-Vietnam movement and the Hippies. A complex of actors, practices and events, which are clustered around the main ‘event’ of the sixties, namely the international revolt of May ’68. Even today it remains difficult to think the ‘contemporary’ without giving thorough consideration to the ‘eventful’ sixties. Therefore, the question ‘what is an event?’ will provide our leitmotiv. Indeed, the sixties championed the ‘event,’ inventing the ‘happening’ or stressing the ‘performativity’ of the reader or spectator. The singularity of the event countered preceding, modernist conceptions of time as progressive or universal. Now temporal experience became articulated in art and literature as disjointed, multiple, and entropic. .

Course objectives

  • study and judge the quality and reliability of the literature in the field independently;

  • collect literature in the field independently;

  • critically analyse literary texts, films and artworks;

  • formulate a clear research problem, and turn it into a viable research project, under expert guidance;

  • report on their research results, both orally and in writing


See the timetable on the department website.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Final paper (100%)


Yes, see Blackboard.

Reading list

Frederic Jameson, “Periodizing the 60s” [1984], in The Ideologies of Theory. Essays 1971-1986, Vol.2 (Minneapolis 1998)
Alain Robbe-Grillet, “Time and Description in Fiction Today” (1963), in For a New Novel (New York 1965)
Allan Kaprow, “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock” (1958), in Essays on Blurring of Art and Life (Berkeley, 1993)
Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood” (1967)
Robert Morris, “Notes on Sculpture,” in Continuous Project Altered Daily (Cambridge, Mass. 1993)
Dan Graham, “Subject Matter” ( 1969), in Rock My Religion (Cambridge, Mass. 1993)
Rosalind Krauss, “Richard Serra, a Translation” in The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths (1986)
Roberto Jacoby, Eduardo Costa, Raul Escari, “An Art of Communications Media” (1966)
Maurice Blanchot, “Disorderly Words” (1968), in The Blanchot Reader (London 1995)
Gilles Deleuze, “May ’68 Didn’t Happen” in Two Regimes of Madness (New York 2006)
Roland Barthes, “Death of the Author” & Michel Foucault, “What is an Author?
Tropicalia: texts by Hélio Oiticica, Augusto de Campos, Glauber Rocha, Oswald de Andrade
Passages from Deleuze, Logic of Sense [on the event]
Deleuze & Guattari, “Rhizome,” in A Thousand Plateaus
Michel Foucault, essay on genealogy; excerpts from Discipline and Punish; “Fantasia of the Library” that could be read with Douglas Crimp, “On the Museum’s Ruins”;
Derrida, “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,” in Writing and Difference

Alfred Leslie, Pull My Daisy (1959)
Alain Resnais & Alain Robbe-Grillet, Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
Marguerite Duras, Détruire, dit-elle (1969)
J-L Godard, La Chinoise of Mépris
Andy Warhol
Bruce Nauman, Studio Films (1967-68)
Robert Smithson, The Spiral Jetty (1971)
Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle
Chris Marker, La Jetée (1962)

Literature will be made available.


Via uSis.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Ernst van Alphen
Eric de Bruyn


This is a compulsory Research MA course for the specialization ‘Art of the Contemporary World/World Art Studies’. Marked by pluralism and a dynamic art concept, increasingly there are crossovers between different art disciplines (intermediality), cultural practices and different (socio-cultural) domains, as well as between art and popular culture. This course focuses on the medial crossovers (esp. art and literature),the interdisciplinary collaboration and exchange between artists, writers, theorists and activist groups and theoretical concepts that are paramount to understand the complexity of art of this era.