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Academic Writing




Admission Requirements

None. This is a compulsory course for all first-year LUC students.


This course targets the improvement and refinement of students’ academic writing skills in English, the language of instruction at LUC The Hague. Over fourteen intense, interactive writing seminars, the course covers the stages of composition of an academic argument, including close reading of sources, summary, citation and reference, identifying critical aspects in a text and/or flaws in reasoning, developing a thesis, finding and using textual evidence, organizing ideas with clarity, “signposting” an essay, and finally, strategies for revision. Addressing questions of register, structure, clarity, coherence, and cohesion through workshop discussions, students can expect to develop their own voice and style in academic writing, as well as learn to examine and evaluate their peers’ writing habits and provide constructive feedback.

Based on their interests, students will select one section of Academic Writing from the following:

Group A Women, War, and Peace. Dr. Ann Marie Wilson (history)
Group B Worlds Old and New. Dr. Corina Stan (European literature)
Group C Unpacking “Truth” in the Life Sciences. Dr. Paul Kadetz (science)
Groups D, H West Is East: Literature and Empire. Drs. Ashis Mahapatra (postcolonial literature)
Groups E, G ‘Other-Worldly’ Words: Writing about Religion. Drs. Priya Swamy (religion)
Group F Politics, Power and Early Modern Visual Arts. Drs. Jacqueline Hylkema (early modern art)
Group I A Sustainable Future? Dr. Brid Walsh (sustainability)
Group J Power, Propaganda and Protest in Early Modern Forgery. Drs. Jacqueline Hylkema (gender, early modern)
Group K Crowd Behaviour: Explanations and Implications. Dr. Shelley McKeown (social psychology)

A Women, War, and Peace. Dr. Wilson

In this section, we will explore the fascinating historical connections linking women’s movements worldwide with international campaigns for peace. Scholars and activists alike have frequently argued that women tend to experience war differently than men—as wives, mothers, and caretakers of “the home front”—and that the particularity of this experience gives women a unique perspective on strategies for building peace. Together we will examine a range of theoretical texts and historical case studies in order to evaluate the plausibility of this claim—and to understand how different groups have put it to political use. In the first half of the semester, we will focus at least in part on the famous international gathering of women peace activists that took place in The Hague in 1915. In the second half of the course, students will have an opportunity to do research on women’s roles in conflicts or peace campaigns that they select themselves—either from the past or the present day. Our class will also take a field trip to Amsterdam’s Aletta Institute for Women’s History, a wonderful historical archive and library.

B Worlds Old and New. Dr. Stan

In this section of Academic Writing we will read a selection of fascinating twentieth-century literary texts by such luminaries as Joyce, Kafka, Benjamin, Kundera and Lem, who contemplated the vanishing of an old world and intimated the birth of a new one. At stake here are questions about modernity/modernization, shifting moral values, the discontents of technological progress, political ideologies and late capitalism, the difficulties of community, and, amidst all, the value of art. In the first half of the course, we will ponder the complex ambivalence with which modernist writers bid farewell to old values: I encourage you to read, before the start of the semester, James Joyce’s “The Dead”; also on our list are Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” and “In the Penal Colony”, Walter Benjamin’s “The Storyteller” and Berlin Childhood around 1900. In part two, we will examine and write about a set of short stories and essays in which new worlds are ushered in by political ideologies or (sometimes counterfactual) accidents of history: the fantastic story “Phkentz” by dissident Soviet writer Abram Tertz, excerpts from The Captive Mind by Nobel-prize author Czeslaw Milosz, the chapter “Words Misunderstood” from Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being and the humorous “Sexplosion” by Stanislaw Lem. This is a section for lovers of great literature.

C Unpacking “Truth” in the Life Sciences. Dr. Kadetz

This section will analyse and question how one is to read, understand, contextualize, and critically examine the life sciences and what is referred to as “truth”. Firstly, we will deconstruct the textbook understanding of science as “an objective progression toward the truth” via an analysis of excerpts from Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. This will be followed with an examination of the history of the institutionalization of [Western] medical perception with excerpts from Foucault’s The Birth of the Clinic. We then analyse and debate the concept of the social construction of science using excerpts from Hacking’s The Social Construction of What? and Latour and Woolgar’s Laboratory Life. Social constructionism will be employed to analyse essays by influential Enlightenment thinkers including Descartes, Bacon, and Comte. This will be followed by an examination of critics of rationalism, positivism and reductionism. We conclude by questioning the ability of simple systems linear thinking to approximate and comprehend the entirety of complex life systems with essays by Bertalanffy, Heisenberg, Popper, and excerpts from Capra’s The Tao of Physics. In summary, this section will provide students with tools to critically analyse “scientific” research and literature, as well as paradigms of “The Truth” located in other disciplines.

D, H West Is East: Literature and Empire. Drs. Mahapatra

Our section will look at English literature and its relationship to the British Empire. What role did racial difference play in the English fiction? What possibilities were opened up through the colonial encounter? The Western gone native (Heart of Darkness), the exotic beast within (Dr. Jekyll and Hyde), the rational explorer in a superstitious land (The Time Machine) can be seen as a response to the upheavals set into motion resulting from imperial overseas expansion. How did culture, as an anthropological concept, appear in the novel, and in what ways was it used to justify colonial domination? How did the concept of the alien, the unfamiliar translate itself in the novel? Our class will look at the encounter between colonizer and colonized, and the questions that this encounter opened up. These issues are still relevant today, and go beyond the boundaries of race. An examination of ‘the Other’ may help us understand contemporary issues such as the debate on same-sex marriage in the United States, the War on Terror, and gender-based inequality. What is a multicultural society? Can we embrace difference? What unites us? What separates us? How has English literature tackled these questions, and what can be learned from past insights and mistakes? We will be reading essays and short stories from Homi Bhabha, Jorge Luis Borges, Kiran Desai, Rudyard Kipling, Hanif Kureishi, Ursula Le Guin, R.K. Narayan, Salman Rushdie, Edward Said, and H.G. Wells, among others.

E, G ‘Other-Worldly’ Words: Writing about Religion. Drs. Priya

Writing about religion can involve an element of the mysterious, of the imaginary, even of the dispicable and dark. At the same time, writing about religion is often grounded in the here and now, focusing on the day-to-day practices of individuals, such as their eating habits and language skills. By critiquing some of the leading writing in the field, this course focuses on the way in which the mysterious and the everyday come together in an intricate vocabulary particular to the discipline of Religious Studies. How does an author determine what is a ‘real’ religious experience, and what is imaginary? How does one write differently about a ritual than an ordinary action or behaviour? How does one write about religious experiences that happen in everyday life? Is a Christian miracle described differently than a Hindu miracle? What do such differences reveal about biases at work within the discipline of Religious Studies? These questions will guide our analysis so that we may begin to understand how writing about religion entangles the practical and the spiritual in order to describe experiences and attitudes that are (often) beyond words.

F Politics, Power and Early Modern Visual Arts. Drs Hylkema

This section is intended as an introduction to the complex relationship between politics and the visual arts in the early modern period. Focusing on the Low Countries, France and Britain, we will explore a number of paintings, sculptures and prints, ranging from Rembrandt’s The Night Watch (1642) to portraits by Sir Peter Lely and Romeyn de Hooghe’s satirical prints of Louis XIV, and discuss how these engaged with the political ideas and issues of their time. Although the main emphasis will be on iconology, we will also discuss a number of practices and concepts related to the creation, display and reception of art, such as patronage and connoisseurship, and study their political implications. The section will include visits to the Rijksmuseum and the Royal Palace in Amsterdam as well as Leiden University’s Prentenkabinet, where students will be shown how to conduct art historical research and will have the opportunity to work with the Prentenkabinet’s extraordinary collection.

I A Sustainable Future? Dr. Walsh

In this section, we will explore the potential of renewable energy as a sustainable source of power. Concerns over security of energy supply and climate impacts of fossil fuels represent significant driving forces for implementation of renewable energies such as wind and ocean energy. To date, hydroelectricity and wind energy lead the way in terms of worldwide renewable power capacity. At local level, social acceptance of renewables, in particular wind energy and hydropower, represents a complex challenge that is shaped by diverse factors, including landscape/environment impacts, trust, and extent of local participation in project development processes. During the course of the semester, we will read a selection of texts that illuminate key aspects of the renewable energy discourse including the feasibility of 100% renewable pathways, the sustainability of hydropower development, local acceptance of renewable energy (wind and hydro), and the obstacles faced by community renewable energy projects. We will refer to specific case studies (Lesotho, China, Turkey, UK, The Netherlands, and Denmark) to situate these issues in a real-life context.

J Power, Propaganda and Protest in Early Modern Forgery. Drs. Hylkema

This section will explore the relationship between forgery and politics in the period between 1600 and 1750. In the early modern period forgery was frequently used by those who had power as well as those who sought to gain or attack it and in this section we will study both types of forgers, their motives, their techniques and the political impact of their fabrications. The section will start with the general concepts and dynamics of political forgery and discuss a number of early modern European forgeries and the contexts in which they were created, such as the Reformation, the Counter Reformation, Orientalism and nation building. The second part of the course will focus on deceptions created by or relating to early modern women, such as Mary Carleton, Christian Davies and Polly Baker, the world’s first – and completely fabricated – feminist, and how these deceptions were used for individual empowerment as well as political and social activism.

K Crowd Behaviour: Explanations and Implications. Dr. McKeown

Crowds have historically been viewed as disruptive and disorderly with early interpretations arguing that they are somehow divorced from everyday life. This has been coupled with the idea that individuals lose themselves when in a crowd. An example of this is classic work of Gustav Le Bon who suggests that individuals who engage in crowd behaviour “descend several rungs in the ladder of civilisation”. Recent theoretical advances by Reicher and colleagues contest this view by arguing the importance of considering the social processes associated with crowd behaviour. Moreover, they suggest that crowd behaviour should lie at the heart of social psychology as it helps us to understand social phenomena. This observation is particularly important because crowds present a mechanism through which social change can occur, for example consider the civil rights marches in the US. During this section we will explore different understandings of crowd behaviour. We will begin with a focus on classic views and later, compare and debate these with more recent theoretical advances. We will then apply this understanding to explain how crowd behaviour can lead to social change and the implications this can have for marginalised groups.

Course Objectives


Mode of Instruction

Close-reading, discussion and analysis of texts, as well as interactive writing workshops form the main body of this course, with one 2-hour session per week from Weeks 1 to 14. Students will write weekly short assignments, building up progressively toward three major essays: essay one will offer an original interpretation of a primary source (weeks 1-3), essay two will incorporate secondary sources designated by the instructor and discussed in class (weeks 4-7), essay three will be based on individual research done by course participants (weeks 8-14). All students will be involved in offering feedback to their peers, both in class-workshops and in conversation with the instructor. Additionally, we will discuss the differences between oral and written expression, rhetorical moves, strategies for revision, and other writing-related topics. Two aspects are central to the pedagogy of the course: that students arrive at every session prepared to engage with one another’s ideas and written work; they understand that writing is a recursive process, take seriously the feedback offered by their course instructor and peers and revise their writing accordingly.


Assessment: In-class participation, timely completion of weekly assignments, 1 critical report of external lecture, quiz
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 15

Assessment: Essay one (1000 words)
Percentage: 15%
Deadline: Weeks End week 3

Assessment: Essay two (2200 words)
Percentage: 25%
Deadline: Weeks Week 8

Assessment: Final research essay (3000 words)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Week 15

This section is tedious, but important. Read closely:

The grid upstairs identifies all graded work for this course. Please note, however, that there are additional writing assignments due for almost every week of our course (see weekly overview below).

You MUST turn in ALL assignments—graded and otherwise—in order to pass the course. Each unit of the course consists of building-block assignments (including an essay draft) as well as a final essay.
This course has a particularly strict late-work policy because of the incremental nature of each assignment, and because the writing workshop format cannot be effective unless students keep up with their work.

Notes on expectations in this course:
Attendance: Given that this is an intensive course, in which you will be learning skills that are crucial to your career as a student at LUC and later, you should try not to miss any class unless you have truly exceptional reasons. If you have to be absent, please be aware that it is your responsibility to catch up with any missed class-work and submit your assignments on time or by the extended deadline discussed with your instructor.

Timely submission of assignments: It is crucial that you submit all your assignments on time, and that you turn in all of them before the final essay in each unit.

Participation: You are expected to participate actively in class discussions, take notes, and respond to your peers’ writing. Every week, you are expected to read at least 3 of your peers’ assignments on the discussion forum and come to class prepared to evaluate them critically (I might call on you!). You should come to class with printed copies of the texts we are discussing.

Attendance of guest or faculty lectures: As the only required writing course at LUC, Academic Writing also prepares you for the intellectual life of the college. As part of this course, you are expected to attend at least one faculty or guest lecture and write a short report (~ 500 words). The latter will have to be submitted by the end of the block when you attend the lecture, and will be assessed as part of your “participation.”

Feedback and office hours: You may expect to receive general feedback on the weekly assignments during class discussion, and extended written comments on the drafts of the main essays. We will also schedule 15-minute individual conferences to discuss your draft, to which you are expected to come prepared and on time.


All course participants will have to own a copy of Gordon Harvey’s Writing with Sources, 2nd ed., of which we will read and discuss a few chapters in class.

Contact Information

Drs. Jacqueline Hylkema

Dr. Paul Kadetz

Drs. Ashis Mahapatra

Dr. Shelley McKeown

Dr. Corina Stan

Drs. Priya Swamy

Dr. Brid Walsh:

Dr. Ann Wilson:

Weekly Overview

Block one:
Weeks 1-3 Essay one
Weeks 4-7 Essay two
Block two:
Weeks 1-7 Essay three

Preparation for first session

See for each section under “Description” above.