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Seminar BA2 Arts, Media and Society I: Cultural Memory


Admission requirements

The following courses need to be passed:

  • Freshman's Class

  • Academic Skills II


Apart from our individual memories, we all have access to - and help construct - memories we share with our cultural communities. Think for instance of events like the Holocaust or 9/11. Even though many of us have not lived through these events ourselves, we relate to them in ways that go beyond historical knowledge and involve a shared, cultural memory. This concept of cultural memory is often in the news nowadays, where it helps explain cultural identities, for instance based on ideas of nationalism or shared origins. This rising interest is memory is also seen in contemporary art, with many artists reflecting on either the events we collectively remember (like the Holocaust) or on the processes of remembrance and commemoration themselves. Furthermore, the public space is full of monuments, which help us remember (in various ways) and which have often been commissioned from artists we have encountered in previous courses.

In this course, we will read texts from a wide range of authors discussing the workings of monuments, countermonuments and art dealing with the phenomenon of cultural memory. We will encounter a broad selection of influential (contemporary) artworks and monuments. The difficulties of usefully representing something as complex and fickle as memory will be discussed and students will work on research projects that will force them to not only passively consider existing monuments, but also actively work through the process of designing their own monument.

The first half of the course will consist of readings and discussions, in order to create a thorough framework of knowledge about cultural memory and artistic strategies dealing with commemoration and monumentalisation. This part will be ordered thematically and will concern topics like the archive, nostalgia, photography, and active forgetting. The second half of the course will be focused on research. Students will work in groups on the design of a monument; each group will decide what event, person or group of people will be commemorated and how. Plans for the design (considering question like: where should the monument be placed, should it be accompanied by text, what medium should be used, etc.) will be presented to the other groups and discussed in class. Finally, each student will write a 2000 word individual research paper, which may be (but does not have to be) related to the group assignment.

Course Objectives

  • Students will have obtained insight into the contemporary debates about cultural memory, monuments and artworks dealing with cultural memory;

  • Students are familiar with a range of influential monuments and contemporary artworks;

  • Students will be able to collaborate on research projects in culturally and nationally diverse groups;

  • Students will be familiar with the audio guide as a medium to communicate information about contemporary art to a larger audience;

  • Students will have gained more insight into the relevance of art in society and cultural identity;

  • Students will be able to initiate and execute a research project, in which they position themselves critically in contemporary scholarly debates, and in which they explicitly frame their own reading/approach.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

  • Research

Assessment method


  • Presentation of individual research proposal

  • Group project: design plans for a new monument

  • Individual paper of 2000 words, excluding bibliography and notes


  • Presentation of individual research proposal (15%)

  • Group project: design plans for a new monument (25%)

  • Individual paper of 2000 words, excluding bibliography and notes (60%)


For the individual paper a resit is possible.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Relevant texts will be made available through Brightspace.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. L.M.F. Bertens