Literature in conflict

The minor Literature in conflict focuses on the tensions and conflicts between literature and the society in which it functions. You will learn to understand the politics of culture and to interpret the role of literature in current political debates. 


Number of EC

30 EC

Number of courses

4 compulsory courses


Period 1


Dr. Müge Özoglu

Course overview

Literature in conflict

Code minor


Entry requirements

(not open for students in the BA Literary Studies/Literatuurwetenschappen).

Associated master's programmes
Register between 30 May and 23 June 2023

Make sure to register for the minor as well as all its courses


This minor focuses on the tensions and conflicts between literature and the society in which it functions. You will explore the place and function of literature in relation to topics such as censorship, cultural memory, the body, and political protest within specific historical contexts. This minor introduces you to the most important issues and current debates in this field. By means of case studies you will be trained to identify and explain the historical and theoretical connections between literature, law, religion, culture, medicine, politics, and philosophy.


In this minor, you learn about the political, social and aesthetic dimensions of literature as a social institution and the problems and conflicts that arise between political authorities and authors and publishers (e.g. state censorship). You will learn about the role literature plays in constructing and challenging the cultural memory of individuals and groups. You will explore how body politics are debated and imagined in literature. And finally, you will study how literature can represent as well as constitute acts of political protest and resistance.

Altogether, these insights will equip you to understand the politics of culture and to interpret the role of literature in current political debates. Each course contributes to your repertoire of important literary and theoretical texts as well as your research skills.


Banned Books. This course provides a survey of the conflict between literary creativity and control by society, in a wide historical, European context, from the first printing press to the 21th Century. A series of case studies of controversial texts and authors are discussed in connection to the regulations imposed to suppress or regulate the distribution of these works. We study official secular and religious censorship (like the Catholic Index), the development of copyright, as well as protests against “inflammatory”, “blasphemous”, or “amoral” texts, through authors such as Erasmus, Montaigne, Vondel, Spinoza, Stuart Mill, Nabokov and Rushdie. These authors used various literary strategies to avoid censorship and repression, like the use of metaphor, humour and satire, pseudonyms, et cetera.

Contesting the Past. This course examines the ways in which literature contributes to public debate about the meaning of the past. In particular, we will examine the role played by literature and film in dealing with divisive and painful memories. Which cultural memories dominate our image of the past, and which events are suppressed? How does literature interact with other media in bringing marginalised stories to light? And how does it challenge and re-imagine the official narratives of nations? We will address these questions through the comparative study of novels and movies dealing with (civil) war, genocide, and the legacy of colonialism.

Debating the Body: This course offers a range of approaches to contemporary conversations around embodiment and ideas of normativity. In particular, it familiarises students with representations of physical and mental difference in film, social media, and literature within and beyond European and North American contexts. Featured themes include disability and identity, health and constructions of the self, mental difference and the quest for political recognition, and more.

Literature and Dissent. In this course we will explore a range of literary and theoretical works, all of which are centrally concerned with the possibility or impossibility of resistance to (state) power and cultural hegemony. The course examines major political protest and social justice movements through the lens of literary texts; we will place these movements and texts in a broader historical context. Throughout the course we will approach the texts with a view towards a dual historical horizon: First, how the texts are themselves responding to and situating themselves within a particular historical moment, and second, what it means to read these texts today, from our own (diverse) historical, cultural, and geographic vantage points.

Application and registration

How to register for this minor and its course modules, depends on whether you are a student of Utrecht University or not.

More information

If you wish to know more, or have questions about this minor, please contact the Student Desk Humanities.