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Academic Writing




Admission requirements

This is a compulsory first-year course.

Course description

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 Worlds Old and New. Dr. Corina Stan (European literature)
Group B Portraying Power. Drs. Jacqueline Hylkema (Art history)
Group C & H The Role of Courts and Tribunals in International Criminal Justice. Dr. Philomeen Dol (Law)
Group D The (Im)moral Economy. Dr. Michelle Carmody (History, economics)
Group E Secularization. Dr. Edmund Frettingham (Religion)
Group F From the Bill of Rights to the XVth Amendment. Drs. Mark de Vries (History)
Group G Power, Propaganda and Protest in Early Modern Forgery. Drs. Jacqueline Hylkema (Early modern literature)
Groups I & J “Insist on yourself, never imitate”: Emerson and American Individualism. Ms. Inge ‘t Hart (American literature and culture)

A. Worlds Old and New

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.

B. Portraying Power: the Politics of Prints and Paintings in the Early Modern Period

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 and Britain, we will explore a number of paintings and prints, ranging from Anthony van Dyck’s court portraits to Romeyn de Hooghe’s propaganda prints, 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 propaganda, and study their political implications. The section will include special visits to the Mauritshuis and Leiden University’s Special Collections, where you will be shown how to conduct art historical research and have the opportunity to work with seventeenth-century prints.

C. The Role of Courts and Tribunals in International Criminal Justice

In this particular group we will focus on the role which international criminal courts and tribunals play in dispensing justice. From the aftermath of World War II until today, criminal courts and tribunals have been established to bring perpetrators of war crime and crimes against humanity to justice in an attempt to end impunity. Advocates of these courts and tribunals argue that they are essential for establishing international criminal justice. Others, however, find that these organisations cannot effectively deal with war crime and crimes against humanity. In this group, taking the International Criminal Court as a starting point, we will examine arguments from a number of academic sources from the field of international criminal law in order to better understand the phenomenon of international criminal justice.

D. The (Im)moral Economy

Since the 2008 crisis there has been a resurgence of talk about the immoral dimensions of contemporary financial and economic practices. Calls for regulation, and for a new look at phenomena such as debt and inequality, are becoming mainstream preoccupations. In this section we take a historical perspective on these questions. Together we will learn how social, cultural, economic and ethno-historians approach these topics, moving from the concept of the ‘moral economy’ through to the role of debt in society. Along the way we will engage with primary sources from financial crises, building towards our objective of understanding the ways in which people experience the economy, and their responses to it. Overall, this section will teach students how to collect and analyze primary sources, how to apply theory and concepts, how to engage secondary sources, and, most importantly, how to create an historically-informed understanding of some of the key issues that shape our contemporary lives.

E. Secularization.

In this particular section we will read a selection of texts that debate the idea of secularization. In the 1950s and 1960s, sociologists developed an idea with roots in the Enlightenment, theorizing that modernization would lead inevitably to the decline of religion, in society and individual lives. The secularization thesis had become conventional wisdom in the social sciences by the 1970s, but its hegemony was short-lived: by the late 1980s, many scholars were arguing that its central claim about the terminal decline of religion was essentially mistaken. They pointed out that popular religion had persisted – even in developed societies where it was expected to decline – and that a new political assertiveness among religious movements around the world was returning faith to the public sphere. The debate that ensued raised far-reaching questions about what it means to be secular and modern, the predictions of secularization theories, and the place and role of religion in modern societies – and behind the empirical debates hovered normative questions about the implications of secularization processes and the forms religion can legitimately take in the twenty-first century. We will read texts that engage these debates by sociologists, philosophers, anthropologists and political scientists to examine what remains of the secularization thesis.

F. From the Bill of Rights to the XVth Amendment : American Constitutional Development in the 19th Century

This section will explore the multifaceted early history of the American Constitution, from its framing and ratification in the late 18th Century through the crisis and regeneration of the Civil War and Reconstruction era. The course will focus on the framing and ratification; the crisis of slavery and the Civil War; and the ‘Second American Revolution’ embodied in the Reconstruction amendments. Through these cases we will explore the meaning of republicanism, the relation of states to the federal government, and the role of the various branches of government in the American system as they emerged between 1787 and 1877.

G. Power, Propaganda and Protest in Early Modern Forgery

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. In the first block the section will focus on deceptions created by or relating to early modern women, including Mary Carleton, Christian Davies and Polly Baker, and how they were used for individual empowerment as well as political and social activism. The second part of the section will explore forgery in a wider political context and discuss a number of early modern European forgeries in terms of the discourses they were part of, such as the American Revolution, Orientalism and European nation building, and the media, pamphlets and newspapers in particular, that disseminated them.

I&J. “Insist on yourself, never imitate”: Emerson and American Individualism

Although these days it is the stuff of generic pop songs, the advice to “insist on yourself” in fact comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s (in)famous essay “Self-Reliance”¾first published in 1841. This rebellious turned canonical text continues to inspire a debate that touches on some of the core values in American culture and literature, such as individualism and independence. The essay has been read as self-help avant la lettre, as New England mysticism, and as a potential source of great wisdom for the leaders of the nation, to name but a few. But it has also been considered to be the origin of much that ails America, especially when the line between self-reliant, self-centered, and self-absorbed is blurred. In Unit 1 we will (close) read and discuss the original essay. In Unit 2 we will read and compare several scholarly interpretations of the essay, from the fields of philosophy, literary criticism, and theology. Finally, in Unit 3, we will explore the response to and use of Emerson’s work in several non-academic contemporary essays from literary magazines such as N+1 and Raritan, and from The New York Times, giving you ample food for thought as you work your own research topic.

Learning objectives

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • master close-reading skills (identify the trajectory/structure of a text, understanding the author’s rhetorical moves) and develop the reflex to summarize the main argument of a text in a concise and nuanced manner;

  • write a clear and cohesive academic essay with a strong central argument based on evidence;

  • give useful peer feedback and offer constructive criticism, become their own critical readers

  • conduct library research, gather and assess academic sources, and acknowledge academic work done by others by referencing sources in accordance with recognised academic citation protocol.

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.


In-class participation, timely completion of weekly assignments, two critical reports of externals lectures, quiz
Ongoing Weeks 1-14

Essay one (1000 words)
Week 3

Essay two (1800 words)
Week 7

Final research essay (2500 words)
Week 14

Compulsory Textbook

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

Corina Stan
Inge ‘t Hart
Philomeen Dol
Jacqueline Hylkema
Michelle Carmody
Mark de Vries
Edmund Frettingham