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Memory and trauma in times of Transition


Admission requirements

BA Humanities.


In societies, times of transition are times of negotiation. When power shifts occur, societies and individuals have to re-invent their identity. This means reevaluating the past, under the tension of a new socio-political and cultural order.

This course addresses how literature contributes to the construction of cultural memories and identities in times of rapid change. Although transition is among the most intriguing subjects of memory, it has thus far been ignored by cultural memory studies. Scholars have mostly focused on remembrance of longer periods of authoritarian systems, coloniality or genocide. What interests us here is not a longer period, but the abruptness of social change. Literary texts recall or re-imagine such periods of transition, often perceived as a time of chaos and rupture, but also of cultural contact and innovation. Building upon theories and approaches developed in cultural memory studies, we will engage with the question of how such times are represented in contemporary literature.

Specifically, we will focus on memory production in postsocialist and postcolonial literatures and examine their intersections as well as their differences. We are particularly interested in texts that employ the narrative and (re)mediating possibilities of literature to engage with a multiplicity of voices and experiences, and thus the ambiguities of transitional periods. Combining close readings, contextual exploration of texts, and reading literature and cultural theory in dialogue, we will inquire into the ways in which literary writing partakes in discourses and practices of public memory as a field of power contestation.

After an introductory session, seminars in the first half of the course will focus on memory production in postsocialist literatures, while the second half of the course will examine postcolonial, specifically Caribbean, literary imaginaries of transition. Common to both blocks are the following themes:

  • Nationalism and its discontents

  • Transnational imaginations

  • Nostalgia and resistance

  • Migration

  • Trauma and repair

  • Post-memory

Course objectives

After this course you will be able:

  • to describe and analyze the different ways in which literature constructs or critiques memory within a transitional postsocialist and postcolonial context;

  • to analyze and interpret the effects of literary memory production in transitional societies and present the results orally and in writing;

  • to distinguish, select and apply different theoretical approaches to literary texts, and to evaluate both the theory and examples of its application;

  • to use a comparative approach in the analysis of literary texts of transitional societies;

  • to design an academic research project on a case of memory production in postsocialist and/or postcolonial literary works;

  • to collaboratively design and lead a class discussion on memory production in postsocialist and/or postcolonial literary texts, to give feedback and draw conclusions.


See Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load 10 ec x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Seminars: 2 hours per week x 12 weeks: 24 hours;

  • Writing assignment(s): 26 hours;

  • Studying compulsory readings for seminars: 71 hours;

  • Reading primary literature (novels/essays): 54 hours;

  • Preparing session leadership with peers: 20 hours;

  • Writing of final course paper, 5.000 words: 85 hours (rereading texts, collecting research material, searching and reading additional literature, composing and writing of paper).

RMA students will perform two extra assignments:

  • A peer review assignment

  • They will rewrite the final paper into a publication for an academic journal.

Assessment method


  • Written and oral assignments (50%- no resit possible)

    For both parts of the exam a minimum of 5.5 is required to pass this course.

  • Final paper (50%). The deadline is on June 8th


See Blackboard.

Reading list

To be announced.


Via uSis.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.