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Art and 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 cultural memory, forgetting, archiving, monuments, and art dealing with these topics. We will encounter a broad selection of influential (contemporary) monuments and artworks. The difficulties of usefully representing something as complex and fickle as memory will be discussed and students will work on research projects that will allow them to not only passively consider existing monuments, but also actively work through the process of designing new monuments.

The first half of the course will consist of readings and discussions, in order to create a thorough framework of knowledge on cultural memory and artistic strategies dealing with commemoration and monumentalisation. 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 an individual research paper.

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 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.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

  • Research

Important: attendance in seminar sessions and excursions is mandatory! In case of no-show, the tutor should be informed by e-mail about your absence and the reason prior to the actual seminar session. Moreover, this course cannot be successfully completed by students that were absent more than twice. Only in exceptional cases, the Examination Committee may consider the possibility of an additional or substitute assignment. See also the Course and Examination Regulations.

Assessment method


  • Group project

  • Individual research paper


  • Group project (35%)

  • Individual research paper (65%)

The weighted average of the assignments must be at least 6.0 (= a pass). A grade between 5.0 and 5.5 for either assignment can be compensated for by the other assignment. Grades below 5.0 for either assignment are not accepted and a resit is required.


In case one (or both) of the assignments receive a grade below 5, a resit is possible, in the form of an essay. This resit is for the course as a whole and the grade for this assignment comes to replace the two partial grades of the other assignments. The resit grade is therefore automatically the final grade for the course.

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 at the start of the course.


Enrolment through My Studymap (Login | Universiteit Leiden) is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website


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

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