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What is Culture?




Admissions requirements



Culture is everywhere, there isn’t an aspect of daily live that is not fully embedded in cultural constructions and traditions. And yet (or because of this) it is difficult to define and clearly demarcate. In this course we will discuss the basics of the concept culture: high culture, low culture, specific cultural practices, theoretical frameworks used in studying culture and possible implications of cultural practices for other realms such as politics and economics.

Since there is so much to say on the topic, we will necessarily be dealing with merely a selection of perspectives and objects. In order to structure our discussions, we will take the novel Foe by J.M.Coetzee as our starting point. This short novel will be read during the course of our meetings, along with additional articles, and will allow us to address the following topics (the list might be amended), each tightly linked to major theories in studies on culture and each functioning as a context for the analysis of cultural phenomena:

  • the ‘canon’

  • the death of the author

  • intertextuality

  • knowledge/power

  • Primitivism

  • Postcolonialism

  • processes of ‘othering’

  • gender trouble

The topics will be introduced in lectures and will subsequently be discussed using additional reading material and the context of Coetzee’s Foe. In doing so, we will gain insight into the importance and pervasiness of cultural practice.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course, students:

  • understand and can discuss the concept of culture and its various forms and expressions

  • are awareness of the importance of cultural practice in other domains such as politics

  • can engage in basic discussions/debates in several academic fields concerned with studying culture (e.g. Postcolonialism and Cultural Studies)

  • can critically read and analyse both literature and theory

  • can give oral presentations on an academic level

  • can write a well-argued analytical essay


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught through lectures and seminars, combining introductions on all topics and reading material by the lecturer with group discussions and student presentations on case studies and individual research.


  • 15% participation in group discussions

  • 25% midterm exam, following and covering the lectures on the themes and texts (written examination with short questions)

  • 20% presentation (in preparation of final essay)

  • 40% final essay (1500 words)


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

J.M. Coetzee, Foe, 1986 London.
Make sure to buy the English edition, preferably in paper edition, as opposed to digital edition. Students are advised to read the book before the start of the course (make sure to read a summary of Daniel Defoe’s Robin Crusoe if you are not familiar with that book, since Coetzee’s novel relies heavily on Defoe’s famous story).

Additional texts will be made available through Blackboard.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Laura Bertens,