Literature, Culture, and Society

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Literature, Culture, and Society

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Literature, Research

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    This course trains students in the close reading of, and critical reflection on, literary and critical texts from a variety of national, cultural and historical backgrounds, and from diverse disciplinary angles. Students learn about social and academic debates regarding the relationship between literature and society. Students practice with written and verbal presentations of their own research. Students learn how to provide their peers with constructive feedback.

    For centuries, literary and other cultural texts have changed the way people think and look at the world. They reveal social injustices and societal ills, offering ideas and ammunition for social change, thereby helping people to imagine different, better realities. A single text may trigger an individual’s struggle for emancipation, but also that of a group or a nation. This course will explore the important ways in which literary texts have contributed to societal change and have liberated people throughout the centuries up to the present.

    The texts we discuss have instigated individual readers as well as collectivities to discover and become aware of injustices, unfairness and abuse. This course analyzes that process, using the following questions as leading threads in the discussions: Which rhetorical strategies employed in the texts evoke the readers’ empathy and possible agency? How do the texts simultaneously assist in emboldening the reader, strengthening an emerging community, and gaining acceptance from a wider audience? In which way do they balance realities that are already being lived and imagined possibilities that have yet to materialize? How do they interact with other expressions of the struggle for emancipation, by way of imitation, opposition, appropriation? And, finally, how do they function within the communities that they have helped found, how are they remembered, recreated, redefined, and to which purposes?

    Students and instructor meet three times per week:
    First session: introductory lecture;
    Second session: seminar in which students and instructor discuss and close-read;
    Third session: excursion OR film viewing and discussion OR group presentations OR group work.

    Participation 30% (including class participation; group presentation; Canvas posts)
    Written exam 40%
    Final report or essay 30%
    Students will receive credits for the course if their grade for the written exam is 5.5 or higher. They are not allowed to compensate an exam grade that is below 5.5 with other partial grades

    Students must also take (or have taken) part in one of two other modules: either (1) “Literary Theory” (or its Dutch equivalent “Literatuurwetenschap”); or (2) “Transatlantic Travel Writing.” The history and literature of social movements such as feminism and the
    abolitionist and anti-apartheid movements.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Some courses may require additional fees.


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