Literature is an age-old human creative practice. It unites features that are uniquely human: the artistic use of language and the capacity for story-telling, combined with the creation of worlds that represent humanity in its fundamental joys and anxieties, its successes and failures.
At University College Utrecht you not only learn how to analyse literary texts from various regions, genres and periods but also how to connect the study of literature to other fields such as history, media studies or politics. This prepares you for graduate work in the field of literature, but it also serves a general education as envisaged in the Liberal Arts and Sciences programme, for which the reading and understanding of literature is indispensable.
Literature offers the opportunity to learn about ourselves and others. At the centre of imaginative literature is mimesis or the representation of human life and experience. Engaging with the literary narratives and experiences of otherness they offer, we can become aware of our position in the world in new ways.
Through reading literature we can learn about specific historical contexts and eternally human struggles, about the perspectives of others on themselves, and ourselves. In the process of reading and studying literature, our development thus works both ways: we learn about our fellow human beings as we come to know ourselves and our place in the world.
The second line in this track studies the literature and culture of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, which constitutes one of the cornerstones of Western culture. The history of the Ancient World also includes the Mesopotamian, Jewish and Christian tradition. All these traditions have contributed to the richness and variety of the literary, philosophical, religious, artistic and scientific achievements of the West. Discovering the sameness and otherness of the ancient World provides students with an opportunity to absorb and reflect on the tradition of Greeks and Romans.
The Literature and Classical Studies track aims at developing both the appreciation of literature and its academic study. Memorable works of literature are charged with meaning and significance, and are the object of study from different perspectives. One can attempt to understand them by applying both contextual knowledge and personal experience in the process of careful reading. One can also attempt to interpret them and engage in an academic debate and exchange on the basis of a shared methodology. And one can reflect on them and be open to their relevance to one’s personal life. In all cases the reading and study of literature contributes to a Liberal Arts and Sciences education.
The academic purpose of the study of literature is to develop the capacity of reading critically. A critical reading aims at formulating and justifying judgment on the basis of sound methodological criteria and at practicing critical, careful attention to the text, its historical settings, its cross-textual references and the reader’s own interpretative lense. In order to attain these aims this track requires students to become acquainted with the philosophy and theories of interpretation as they have been developed since Antiquity up to the present day. Literature in all its variety has stimulated a great variety of theoretical approaches to interpretation, and they can enrich the experience of reading literature.
Literature and Classical Studies has two main tracks which students can follow: Comparative Literature (track 1) with courses focusing on the study of literature until the present day, including literary and critical theory as well as aspects of cultural studies; and Ancient Literature (track 2) with courses focusing on the study of Ancient literature and Classics.
Apart from the straight level 1-2-3 route to either of these, a number of combinations may also be of interest. For all students who wish to major in these areas, the starting point is UCHUMLIT11 (Introduction to Literature). The courses can then be combined as they fit best to the student’s specific interests.
MA in Literature
Literature MAs in the Netherlands will often require 80 ECTS in a particular area, but the combination of courses offered at University College Utrecht have in the past been sufficient for Utrecht University, University of Amsterdam and Leiden University. University College Utrecht graduates have also been successful in their applications to so-called combined Masters in Literature and Philosophy at Leiden, UCL, Goldsmiths College, Warwick University and the New School in New York.
MA in Classical Studies
Master’s degrees in Classics are likely to require more of either Latin or Greek, sometimes both, at any of the internationally renowned universities, but Utrecht University does offer a Master’s programme in Classical Antiquity that does not. That said, we have also had students who successfully entered Master's programmes at both Cambridge and Oxford. Students should always be advised to look into the specific entry requirements for the particular programme, but the combination will put them in good stead.
Supporting disciplines and good combinations
It almost goes without saying that the study of Modern or Classical Languages is a very important addition to the study of Literature, modern or ancient. Furthermore, the History and Philosophy tracks are very good combinations, but students should also consider the Performance Studies track, the Political Science and Sociology tracks as good support for an interest in Literature and/or Classics. As literature covers a wide spectrum of human experience, many other meaningful combinations are possible. In the past, students have fruitfully combined Literature with Psychology, Law and Anthropology.