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Situated Literatures II: Empire and Imperialism in Modern Literature


Admission requirements

A relevant BA degree. If in doubt, please consult the coordinator.
For students of the track ‘Literature in Society’, this course is compulsory, in combination with Situated Literatures I. Students from other tracks of Literary Studies or other relevant MAs are welcome to enroll.


In this course we will focus on the cultural and literary aftermath of the modern Western Empires of the 19th and 20th centuries: Britain, France, the Netherlands and Germany. Our point of departure is Edward Said’s idea that culture and Empire are closely intertwined entities. In this view, narratives (especially the novel) were crucial in shaping the historical and social experience of Empire. They helped shape but also contest imperial attitudes and experiences. Indeed, during the colonial era, culture and narrative sometimes reproduced imperial ideologies but they also enabled dominated populations to find their own voice. Now that colonial Empires have been dismantled many decades ago, we will ask ourselves: what is the cultural aftermath of the British, French, Dutch and German Empires, and how do they still shape contemporary identities, in Europe and beyond? How do the history of former Empires and their literatures still have an impact upon cultural and literary attitudes today, for instance producing rewritings of canonical texts? How do images of Empire created by culture and literature affect our collective memory of it? These are the questions to be explored through theoretical study and close reading of four recent novels stemming from the four different linguistic domains under discussion.

Course objectives

  • General knowledge of the historical and cultural context and aftermath of the British, French, Dutch and German Empires;

  • Knowledge of a some important theoretical texts about the relations between Empire and culture (Said) and ability to apply and evaluate ts keyconcepts;

  • Insight into four contemporary keyworks and ability to analyze them textually and contextually;

  • ability to share analytical and theoretical views during class discussion’

  • focus research skills on a relevant subject of your choice in the form of a presentation and a final paper.



Mode of instruction

A combination of lecture and seminar.

Course Load

  • total course load: 140 hours

  • tuition: 3 hrs a week = 21 hrs

  • preliminary work and assignments: 42 hrs

  • prepare oral presentation: 20 hrs

  • research and writing the final paper: 58 hrs

Assessment method

  • Paper of circa 5000 words: 60%

  • Oral presentation: 30 %

  • Participation in class discussion: 10 %

The average of the three components should be sufficient.

Resit: final paper only.

ReMA 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 will be used to provide students with additional information/reading material

Reading list

Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006)
Kristian Kracht, Imperium. A Fiction of the South Seas (transl. from the German by D. Bowles, Farar, Strauss & Giroux, 2015)
Kamel Daoud, The Meursault Investigation (transl. from the French by John Cullen, Other Press, 2015)
Albert Camus, The Outsider (transl. from the French by S. Smith, Penguin Classics)
Boeli van Leeuwen, The Sign of Jonah (In de Knipscheer, 2007)
Stephen Howe, Empire. A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2002)
Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (Vintage Books)


Students need to register in uSis for classes, exams and final papers.

When registering students of the MA Literary studies take priority. The deadline for registration is August 15. All other students should contact the coordinator of studies: Jurjen Donkers

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


For questions about the content of the course, you can contact the coordinator: Annelies Schulte Nordholt.

Administration Office: Van Wijkplaats
Coordinator of Studies: Jurjen Donkers.


The listed novels should be read before the course starts.