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European Modernism


Admission requirements

A relevant BA degree. If in doubt, please contact the Coordinator of Studies


“European Modernism” is optional for students from all specialisation tracks in Literary Studies, and offers an overview of Modernism in theory and practice in four major Western European literatures : English, French, German, and Italian, from approx. 1890 to 1940. After a general introductory lecture, the texts of these literatures will be approached in blocks of 2- 3 classes as being part of a language-bound cultural (and socio-historical) context, but will also be studied as part of a European network with a long and fruitful creative tradition, as Modernism is noted for its international dynamics. Keywords of this period are, among others, “subjectivity”, ‘the unconscious”, “epistemology”, “urbanization”, “empire” and “technology”. Next to a focus on the formal and (at times highly) experimental aspects of Modernist texts, this literature will be studied in a larger context (developments in the fields of science and the arts, social and political developments). The course will end with a discussion of the legacy of Modernism.

Course objectives

  • students will have a thorough insight into the notion and theory of European Modernism;

  • students will have knowledge of a canonic corpus of European literary texts and of their interconnections;

  • students will have knowledge of the contemporary debate about Modernism;

  • students will be able to analyze and comment upon specific literary texts, using current theoretical approaches;

  • students will be able to present their acquired knowledge and understanding in oral interventions, in written assignments and in a final research paper at a high intellectual and linguistic level.


The timetable is available on the Literary Studies website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load : 10 EC = 280 hrs

  • Lectures: 26 hrs

  • Study of compulsory literature: 100 hrs

  • Assignment(s): 52 hrs

  • Research essay: 100 hrs

Assessment method

Final research paper (4000-5000 words): 70%
Two written assignments (± 1000 words each): 20%
Oral group presentation: 10 %

The course is divided into 4 blocks of 2- 3 weeks each.
There will be an assignment during midtermweek and one at the end of term.


Blackboard will be used for: practical information and course materials.

Reading list

Pericles Lewis, ed, The Cambridge Companion to European Modernism (2011); available electronically via UB Leiden
James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Penguin)
Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (Penguin)
Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz (Penguin) or the German original

Marcel Proust, The Way by Swann’s (In Search of Lost Time, vol. 1), transl. Lydia Davis, Penguin Books, 2003: parts I and III (‘Combray’ and “Place names: the name”) or the French original: Du côté de chez Swann (Garnier Flammarion)

Nathalie Sarraute, Tropisms (New Directions Publishing Company, 2015) or the French original: Tropismes (Minuit).
Pirandello, Luigi, he Late Mattia Pascal. Translated by William Weaver. Eridanos Press, c.1987 / Paperback – November 30, 2004 or in Dutch translation: Wijlen Mattia Pascal. Amsterdam : Coppens & Frenks, 2007 (or paperback, Singel Uitgevers)

Svevo, Italo, Zeno's Conscience. Translated by William Weaver. New York: Vintage International, 2001;or in Dutch translation: Svevo, Italo, Bekentenissen van Zeno, vertaald door Jenny Tuin. Athenaeum - Polak & van Gennep.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. You can register until two weeks after classes have started however students are advised to register as soon as possible and preferably before the start of the course. In the case of electives: please be aware that most electives have a maximum amount of students who can enroll. Do not approach the course instructor in case the class is full. You will automatically be put on a waiting list.

In case you have difficulties with registering for courses you may ask the student administration at Van Wijkplaats for assistance. Their e-mail address is Always include your name, student number, the course title and the concerning activity number see schedule

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs



For questions about the content of the course, you can contact the teacher: Dr. A.E. Schulte-Nordholt

Literary Studies departmental office

Coordinator of studies:


The literature will be taught in the following order:
First block: Conrad, Woolf, Joyce, Döblin;
Second block: Proust, Sarraute, Svevo, Pirandello.

It is strongly advised to read at least the following works during the summer:
James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as Young Man

Svevo, Italo, Zeno's Conscience

Marcel Proust, The Way by Swann’s (In Search of Lost Time, vol. 1), transl. Lydia Davis, Penguin Books, 2003: parts I and III (‘Combray’ and “Place names: the name”).

Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz