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Thematic Seminar: Art, Literature, and Law - The Question of the Human Nature of Right(s)


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
The number of participants is limited to 24.


Law and literature have, historically speaking, always been concerned with questions of justice, often addressing moral or political issues that could or cannot be entirely addressed within the confines of the law. In this course we study the relations between art, literature and law, focusing on the different ways in which (quasi-) legal issues are broached by art and by literary texts. Special attention will be devoted to the way in which works of art and literature rethink the notion of humanity. As we will see, art and literature may raise fundamental questions about our legal system and our ideas on justice.

Additionally, the students will work through:

  • W.C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research, fourth edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2016, or;

  • W.C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research, third edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Course objectives

The Thematic Seminars for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the multidisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.

Academic skills that are trained include:

Oral and written presentation skills:

1. To explain clear and substantiated research results.
2. To provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course:

  • in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;

  • in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;

  • using up-to-date presentation techniques;

  • using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;

  • aimed at a specific audience.
    3. To actively participate in a discussion

Collaboration skills:

1. To provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position.
2. To adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:

1. To collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques.
2. To analyse and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability.
3. To formulate on this basis a sound research question.
4. To design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved.
5. To formulate a substantiated conclusion.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction


Seminars are held every week, with the exception of the Midterm Exam week. This includes supervised research.

Course Load

Total course load for this course is 10 EC (1 EC = 28 hours), which equals 280 hours, broken down by:

Component Estimated time
Attending seminars 24 hours
Reading literature 116 hours
Preparing assignments 45 hours
Oral presentation 25 hours
Writing the final research essay 70 hours

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

Partial grade Weighing
Assignments 30%
Oral presentation 10%
In-class participation 10%
Final Research Essay - 5,000 words (between 4,500 and 5,500) 50%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note that the End Grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of all assessment components.


Students who score an overall insufficient grade for the course, are allowed resubmit a reworked version of the Final Essay. The deadline for resubmission is 10 working days after receiving the grade for the Final Research Essay and subsequent feedback.
In case of resubmission of the Final Research Essay the final grade for the Essay will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.

Students who fail to hand in their final essay on or before the original deadline, but still within 5 working days of that deadline, will receive a grade and feedback on their essay. This will be considered a first submission of the final essay, however, the grade will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.
Students who fail to hand in their final essay on or before the original deadline, and also fail to hand in their essay within 5 working days of that deadline, get 10 working days, counting from the original deadline, to hand in the first version of their final essay. However, this first version counts as a resubmitted essay with consequential lowering of the grade, and there will be no option of handing in a reworked version based on feedback from the lecturer.

Retaking a passing grade

Retaking a passing grade is not possible for this course.
Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2019 – 2020.

Exam review 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 organised.


Blackboard will be used for the seminars. Students are requested to enroll on Blackboard, but only after correct enrolment in uSis.

Reading list

  • Thomas Aquinas, from Summa Theologica II, ‘Questions 90-97

  • Hannah Arendt, ““Epilogue” and “Postscript” to Eichmann in Jerusalem.

  • Hannah Arendt, “Holes of Oblivion.” The Portable Hannah Arendt, ed. Peter Baehr. London & New York: Penguin, 2000. 365-390.

  • Alain de Benoist, ‘What is sovereignty?

  • Judith Butler, “Violence, Mourning, Politics.” Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London: Verso, 2004. 19-49.

  • Robert Cover, “Violence and the Word.” The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 95 (1986): 1601-1629.

  • Charlotte Delbo, “Kalavrita of the Thousand Antigones.” Days and Memory. Evanston: Marlboro Press, 1990. 87-109.

  • Jacques Derrida, “Force of Law: The ‘Mystical Foundation of Authority’”, Acts of Religion. New York: Routledge, 2002. 230-258.

  • Frantz Fanon, “On Violence”, The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press, 2004. 1-62

  • Michel Foucault, Abnormal. London: Verso, 2003.

  • Julia Kristeva, “Forgiveness: An Interview.” PMLA, vol. 117, no. 2 (2002). 278-295.

  • Antjie Krog, Country of My Skull. Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa. London: Random Houze, 1998.

  • Rebecca Parker Brienen, ‘Cannibalizing America: From the Ethnographic Impulse to the Ethnographic Portrait.’ In: Visions of Savage Paradise: Albert Eckhout, Court Painter in Colonial Brazil. Amsterdam: AUP, 2006.

  • Beth E. Richie, “Black Women, Male Violence, and the Buildup of a Prison Nation”, Arrested Justice. Black Women, Violence and America’s Prison Nation. New York Press University, 2012. 99-124,

  • Kaja Silverman, ‘Back to the Future’; *Camera Obscura *September 1991 9 (3 27): 108-132

  • Peter Singer, ‘All Animals are Equal’. In: Tom Regan & Peter Singer (eds.), Animal Rights and Human Obligations. New Jersey, 1989, pp. 148-162

Additionally, the students will work through:

  • W.C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research, fourth edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2016, or;

  • W.C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research, third edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2008.


Registration occurs via survey only. Registration opens 2 December:

1) On 2 December you will receive a message with a link to the survey.
2) Indicate there which are your 5 preferred Thematic Seminars, in order of preference.
3) Based on preferences indicated by 15 December the course Coordinator will assign you to one specific Elective by 15 January.
4) Students will then be enrolled for the specific groups by the Administration Office.
5) All students are required to enrol for their group in Blackboard to access all course information.

Students cannot register in uSis for the Thematic Seminar courses, or be allowed into a Thematic Seminar course in any other way.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


E. Edelmann MA

When contacting lecturers or tutors, please include your full name, student number, and tutorial group number.
Please use your University email-address (uMail) when communicating with any person or department within Leiden University.

Student Affairs Office for BA International Studies


The deadline for submission of the Final Essay is Friday 5 June 2020.