English Literature in a Visual Culture is a specialisation within the MA programme Literary Studies. In our courses, you study the interrelations between written and visual texts. What are the different characteristics of words and images as semiotic signs? What different meaning-effects occurs when you tell the same story in a novel versus a film? Can ekphrastic poetry ever sufficiently describe a visual work of art? How do illustrations and written text interact with each other?
NB: this is the programme as it is taught in the academic year 2016-17. Individual courses are subject to change in the year 2017-18.
Literature and Society; Lecturer: Dr. Kristine Steenbergh
In this course, we will explore the changing relation between humans and their natural environment in the early modern period (1550-1700). Even if we associate topics like climate change, overpopulation, air pollution and the exploitation of natural resources more readily with our current time frame, many of these environmental issues first emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We will be reading early modern literature and analyzing visual sources from the perspective of ecocriticism, exploring together how early modern texts and images responded to social factors that impacted the relation between humans and their environment. Developments that we will be focusing on include the explosive growth of the city of London in the period, the beginnings of colonialism, the enclosure of the commons, the Reformation, the rise of empirical science, and changing ideas of the self and subjectivity. We will not only consider the ways in which literature and visual culture respond to these changes, but view texts and images as part of the process of change.
Seminar The Material Book; Lecturer: Dr. Nelleke Moser
This course seeks to introduce you to an approach that is currently of great importance in textual studies: the text as a material object. While literary students are used to focusing on the linguistic code of a text (the content or narrative), this course focuses on the bibliographic code (such as typography and layout, owner’s marks and illustrations). The aim of the course is to explore how meaning is conveyed by these material features as well as by the words of the text. We use original copies from the Special Collections Department of the University Library of the Vrije Universiteit. The focus is on one author, such as Bunyan (2012 &2013), Shakespeare (2014), or Milton (2015) or on one publisher, such as Cassell & Co (2016). You will learn how to apply this approachon a given text, to discuss your research with fellow students and to share and evaluate your findings both orally and on paper.
The Diasporic Experience: Ethnic Cultures of America; Lecturer: Dr. Babs Boter
This course examines literary and visual texts that originate in a wide variety of North American diasporic cultures, and that have triggered new ways of thinking about life after migration. In their narratives of diaspora life, do authors/artists relate similar (chronological) plots of displacement, uprootedness, intercultural encounters, transculturation and cultural hybridization? And how do gender, race, ethnicity and nationality intersect in these plots?
Film Narratology; Lecturer: Dr. Roel van den Oever
One of the most fruitful ways to start the process of analyzing a cultural text (be it a written or a visual text), is by unraveling its narrative structure. Who is the agent that is narrating the text? Whose vision is presented in the text? How is the reader thus positioned by the text? This course first explores the theory of narratology as developed for the novel. Subsequently, we trace how other genres (in particular film, television, and comics) have inspired adaptations of this initial theory of narratology.
Visual Art and the American Poet; Lecturer: Prof. dr. Diederik Oostdijk
Why are American poets increasingly fascinated by visual art? Ekphrastic poetry – poetry inspired by visual art – has become a significant subgenre in which poets may reveal the essence of their poetics as well as the limitations of their chosen art form. Special attention will be paid to the ekphrasis as a social interaction. What social connections do poets engage in by writing about visual arts, and how does this relate to the visual age we are living in?
In this course, we study the interrelation between words and images. How do we theorize the differences between words and image? How do words and images interact in genres such as the screenplay and the comic? How can words substitute for images, for instance in ekphrastic poetry and censored photographs? In search for answers to these questions, we read an eclectic collection of authors, including Ernst van Alphen, Mieke Bal, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Scott McCloud, W. J. T. Mitchell, Steven Price, Richard Meyer, and Kaja Silverman.
The Gothic Gaze; Lecturer: Dr. Anita Raghunath
This course offers you an opportunity to explore the relations between Gothic literature and other media, such as film, music and image, and is intended to develop your understanding of what we mean by the ubiquitous term, Gothic. We focus on early gothic novels such as The Monk by Matthew Lewis and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and examine how eighteenth and early nineteenth century novels inform and inspire more contemporary Gothic texts, both literary and visual.
Closely supervised by one of our staff members, you write your own large independent scientific thesis (roughly 20,000 words). The topics are decided on by the students themselves, in consultation with their supervisors.
For more information, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org (Dutch students) or contact international student advisor Stipo Jeleč at email@example.com. NB: To register for this MA specialisation in Studielink, look for the MA programme Letterkunde (Literary Studies) at VU University and select the specialization Literatures in English. See also the information about this MA programme on the VU University website.