The Leiden University Master’s degree in Literary Studies offers a one-year specialisation, focused on the roles and impact of literature in society. You will investigate how literature is connected to daily, lived experience, be it individual or collective.
Novels, poetry, theatre and the new literary media – whether belonging to ‘high’ or to ‘popular’ culture – mirror and reflect society and its tensions but also inform and shape them. That is why you will be studying literature from a thematic point of view, concentrating on key political and social issues like identity, migration, memory, and the metropolis, for instance. Much modern literature in Western European languages stands on the crossroads between European and non-European cultures. Therefore, in all courses within this specialisation, literature will be studied in a transnational perspective.
Studying the impact of literature on society involves a series of questions: how does literature affect (or sometimes threaten) ways of life and moral standards? How do literary strategies like story-telling shape the fields of politics and law? How does literature help shape individual and collective identity and memory? Conversely, society also shapes literature. This involves questions about the embeddedness of literature in culture and society; about the cultural capital of individual texts, genres and oeuvres: why are certain works and authors classified as classics and others as popular or ‘cult’?
Through the ages, national literatures have interacted with each other within Europe and beyond. For instance Romanticism saw intensive cultural and literary exchanges between Northern and Southern Europe. Ever since European expansion began, literatures in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish have been ‘exported’ beyond Europe and conversely, non-European migrant literatures have been travelling to European countries, creating a rich intermingling of literatures.
Check out the programme in Literature in Society. Europe and Beyond.