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The Art of Reading: Theory and Practice




Admissions requirements

What is Culture? or Art of Reading (100-level offered in 2014-15) or permission from the teacher.


The forms and functions of literature are manifold but depend on the arts of reading. We read to be moved, informed, enlightened, to be amused or to form an opinion. The ways in which we study and consult texts, meditate and comment on what has been written or delight in what we read have been crucial for education, imagination, debate and inquiry. This course looks at the ways literature has helped to make sense of the world. Students study the art of reading in a variety of texts that provided models for meditation, for study, for knowledge transfer, for artistic expression and communication. The focus will be on notions that have been formative for a textual culture that most modern readers are now too familiar with to question: dialogue, allegory, first-person narrative, etc. Why did these genres and other become popular – and why did they fade out? What theories of authorship and readership shaped literary culture? What did it mean to be literate?

Seeking answers to these questions students read a series of medieval texts – including the courtly romances of King Arthur, the love lessons in the Roman de la Rose, mirrors for princes, mystical visions, and other works that have remained inspiring, authoritative and/or exemplary through the ages. We will combine analyzing these texts with studying scholarly work on textual culture, literacy, reading and the interaction of the written word and visual culture.

Course objectives

Students are introduced to and gain knowledge of

  • Literature and its history and literary concepts

  • Theories and history of reading and readership

  • Notions of textual culture and its (interdisciplinary) connections to arts and learning
    Students learn to

  • Contextualize literature within wider intellectual, artistic and historical cultures

  • Develop skills in analysis and interpretation of literary texts

  • Apply notions of literary criticism and theory in a historical perspective

  • Write an academic essay


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught in a mixture of lecturing, group discussions and presentations. Students keep a dossier of reading reports, based on questions that will be discussed in class. Included in the course will be a visit to the Special Collections of the Royal Library in The Hague and/or the University Library in Leiden.


Dossier of reading reports and participation in class 30%
Presentation and prepaper individual research 30%
Final essay 40 %


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



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. Geert Warnar.