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Modern and Contemporary Studies: Literature, Cultural Memory and Trauma


Admission requirements

Bachelor Degree


Whereas for a long time literature has ben considered to be, and was approached as, a form of individual expression, today it is dealt with as a form of memory. This memory can be individual, but also belong to a culture, a nation, or to other kinds of groupidentity. Questions, which will be central in this course, are the following: What exactly is memory, how is memory produced. How does memory relate to experience? What can go wriong in the process of producing memories? ? How does traumatic memory relate to “normal” memory. How can literature be read as a form of memory?. These questions will be dealt with by emans of a combination of theoretical texts, literary texts, and films. The “literature of memory and trauma” will especially consist of histories of war, genocide, and migration.

Course objectives

  • In this course students are made familiar with the most important theoretical approaches to literature as a form of (cultural) memory, and as the product of traumatic memory.

  • At the same time canonical literary texts and films in this field will be read.

  • Students will contribute to scholarly discussions about literature as a form of memory and as a form of trauma by means of an endpaper, a presentation in the seminar, and discussions during the seminar


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Research

Course Load

  • Total course load for the course: 28 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 150 hours

  • Time to write a paper (including reading / research): 100 hours

Assessment method

  • Weekly Assignments (30%)

  • Final paper (50%)

  • Presentation (20%)

The minimal grade for each item is 5.

In the case of a fail, you are entitled to rewrite the final paper.

ResMa students that take this course will make an additional assignment that reflects the demands of the Research Master. In cooperation with the course instructors, they write a PhD-proposal along the lines of the subject of the course. The format and demands of the Dutch Research Foundation NWO are used. The PDF with instructions is to be found here.
The grade for this assignment will form 30% of the final grade.


Blackboard will be used to provide students with an overview of current affairs, as well as specific information about (components of) the course.

Reading list

  • Aleida Assmann, Cultural Memory and Western Civilization: Functions, Media, Archive. (Cambridge UP, 2011)

  • Ernst van Alphen, Caught By History: Holocaust Effects in Contemporary Art, Literature and Theory. (Stanford UP, 1997)

  • Jan Assmann, “Introduction”, in Cultural Memory and Early Civilization: Writing, Remembrance, and Political Imagination. (Cambridge UP 2011)

  • and a reader with arcticles and book chapters

The booktitles and / or syllabi to be used in the course, where it can be purchased and how this literature should be studied beforehand.


Enrollement trough uSis is mandatory. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs

Contact details

Media Studies student administration, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;
Coordinator of studies: Ms S.J. de Kok, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 3, room 101b.