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Questions of Law and Justice in Literature, Art and Media


Admission requirements

Not applicable


This course studies how cultural texts broach questions of justice and can be understood to be in an (implicit) dialogue with the juridical questions and legal trials of their times. Literary texts, films, works of drama, and popular songs explore notions of justice that challenge hegemonic ideas or express grievances that cannot be articulated in juridical terms, thereby offering a supplement to the legal sphere. This year’s seminar focuses on the intersection of law, culture, media and technology. New media and technological innovations have radically redefined key legal categories and concepts (such as that of personhood, responsibility, territory and sovereignty). They have also fundamentally altered the dynamics of a trial.

In part one of this course, we study the trial as a cultural phenomenon. We will study how trials can have extra-legal functions, serving political, didactic and even therapeutic goals. We will focus our attention on trials that seek to come to terms with gross human rights violations, such as the Holocaust, colonialism, the Argentinian ‘dirty war’ and South-Africa’s apartheid period, and films, literature and art created in response to these trials. After part one the participant is asked to write a mid-term paper on one of the cases that was discussed in the first part. Part two will revolve around two specific court cases: the trial against Lucia de B. in the Netherlands and the so-called ‘Contaminated Blood Affair’ in France. This part has a more practical orientation in that it prepares the student to conduct his or her own research on a specific trial as a cultural event. This takes the form of a presentation on chosen case material in the final weeks, and a written final paper that presents the outcome of the research.

Course objectives

This course introduces students into the interdisciplinary field of Law, Culture and Literature; a field that is well established in the Anglo-Saxon world but much less so in Europe. The goals of the course are:

  • To be aware of the pitfalls and possibilities of interdisciplinary research in this field;

  • To have knowledge of the field’s recent history and historical breakthroughs;

  • To develop conceptual clarity about pivotal concepts in the debates that dominate the field;

  • To know the different modes of research by means of which the two fields have been related thus far;

  • To be able to start to move independently in this field on the basis of a productive relation between the two disciplines, i.e., not using one as an illustration for the other but as partners in dialogue or confrontation;

  • To further develop practical skills such as close reading or the contextualisation of both primary texts and theories.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Mid-term paper (40%);

  • Final paper (60%)


The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the student will have to consult with the instructor.

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

Readings will be made available on Brightspace. These include theoretical texts by (among others), Butler, Derrida, Agamben, Esposito, Vissman, Deleuze, and Galloway, as well as a selection of literary texts, comics, and films.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal