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Modern and Contemporary Studies: Negotiations: Art and Literature of the contemporary Caribbean


Admission requirements

A BA degree in Humanities.


‘This beautiful damned island!’ exclaims one of the protagonists in Doubleplay, a novel from the Dutch Caribbean Frank Martinus Arion. And he continues: ‘Dreamers, we are dreamers on this damned island’. Such ambivalence and critique is not an exception in Caribbean self-representation. The colonial history and the multi-cultural and trans-national character of the area makes for a complex relation to local identity.

The course takes a twofold stance vis-a-vis Caribbean visual arts, performances, literary texts, and monuments. They are considered to be both reflections on Caribbean identities, and producers of Caribbean identities. Moreover, the way memory of these works and authors is performed, will be considered part of this identity production.
In this course, we will analyze the representations and productions of Caribbean identity in both visual arts, performances and literature. An interdisciplinary standpoint is taken: artworks, performances and stories are analysed from various perspectives: media-studies, art history, literary theory (post-colonial, global) and study of memory production.

This means that we will be focusing on three central questions:

  • how can we understand the productivity of intercultural confrontation? (intertextuality, interdiscursivity).

  • what is the role and influence of memory production and trauma on these representations of Caribbean identity?

  • Which theories can we use that do justice to the multi-cultural character of Caribbean culture? Globalization theory and contemporary theory from the Caribbean (Edouard Glissant, Wilson Harris, Antonio Benitez-Rojo, Kamau Brathwaite, Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy) will be read for understanding the multiplicity of Caribbean identity and culture. The question is not only how to understand and frame the works under scrutiny, but also how we may evaluate these theories for our purpose.
    Cases studied are amongst others: Hoe duur was de suiker, Nardo Brodets: slaves of holland, Maryse Conde, Frank Martinus Arion, the Instituto Bueno Bista and ArteSwa in Curacao with artists David Bade and Tirzo Martha, artists-initiatives such as Fresh Milk (Barbados), contemporary Surinamese art.

Course objectives

Students will:

  • acquire knowledge of and insight in Caribbean art & culture and the theories provided for the framing and analysis of the texts, artworks and cultural practices.

  • learne how to apply and evaluate such theories to works of art and literature.

  • analyse works of art and literature and present the results of these analysis in an academic papers.


See the website of Literary Studies

Mode of instruction

  • 3 hours seminar; study of literature/theoretical texts; presentation of research; discussion;

  • excursion to museum.

Course load

  • Seminars: 3 hours per week x 12 weeks = 36 hours

  • Museum visits + preparation = 14 hours

  • Writing weekly assignments: 2×12 = 24 hours

  • Studying compulsory readings for seminars = 60 hours

  • Reading primary literature (novels) = 50 hours

  • Preparing oral presentation = 20 hours

  • Writing of final course paper, 5.000 words = 76 hours (rereading texts, collecting research material, searching and reading additional literature, composing and writing of paper)

Assessment method

Weekly written and oral assignments (50%) and final paper (50%).

Each part must be at least 5,0. The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average. The weekly written and oral assignments cannot be taken again.
Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the teachers.

ResMa students that take this course will write a paper that reflects the demands of the Research Master. That is, they will have to formulate more complex and original research questions than the MA students, include a critical positioning towards the state of the art of its subject, and produce a longer paper (7000 words including bibliography instead of 5000 words).


Blackboard is used:

  • to distribute a week-to-week overview of the course program (incl. information on what is to be prepared for class),

  • to distribute study materials,

  • as a medium to communicate with the teachers and other students.

Reading list

  • Antonio Benitez-Rojo, The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective (Duke University Press, 1992; second edition 1996).

  • Edouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation. Translated by Betsy Wing. University of Michigan Press.

  • Paul Gilroy, The black Atlantic: modernity and double consciousness. Cambridge, Mass : Harvard University Press 1993 ISBN: 0674076060 (pbk)


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs


Prof. dr. Y. van Dijk
Prof. dr. C.J.M. Zijlmans