Humanities Research: Literature & Contested Spaces

Research Master

Literature & Contested Spaces (Research master)

Programme of
Humanities (Research)
TitleMA Literature & Contested spaces


In this Research Master specialization, you examine the roles literary texts play in the representation and shaping of contested spaces. Novels, poems, and plays shape our perceptions and affect our lived experience of such spaces as the nation, wilderness, or the body. These spaces are contested in our current context, and have been in the past centuries. In our seminars, tutorials and individual research projects, you explore how literary texts have played a role in shaping our experience of such contested spaces. In this specialization, you pursue your fascination with the ways in which literary representations interact with real or imagined spaces, geographies and ecosystems. You focus on literature and three kinds of contested space: the (trans)national, the environment, and the body. We welcome students who are keen to hone their critical thinking and research skills in this field; we offer you the chance to pursue your research interests under the guidance of specialists in the field.

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In the Literature & Contested Spaces Research Master programme, you examine the roles literary texts play in the representation and shaping of contested spaces. Novels, poems, and plays shape our perceptions and affect our lived experience of such spaces as the nation, wilderness, or the body. These spaces are contested in our current context, and have been in the past centuries. In our seminars, tutorials and individual research projects, you explore how literary texts have played a role in shaping our experience of such contested spaces. In this specialization, you pursue your fascination with the ways in which literary representations interact with real or imagined spaces, geographies and ecosystems. You focus on literature and three kinds of contested space: the (trans)national, the environment, and the body. We welcome students who are keen to hone their critical thinking and research skills in this field; we offer you the chance to pursue your research interests under the guidance of specialists in the field. 

The (trans)national as contested space 
The role of the nation state and its connection to supranational organizations is one of the most hotly debated issues in politics today. As Brexit and the current American elections show, the sovereignty of the nation state may be making a comeback. Yet political developments can also be read as reactions to an unstoppable globalizing process that has accelerated since the twentieth century, and which has had an impact on the canon, on our student population, and our curriculum. In the wake of the transnational turn that has questioned mononational narratives of literature, we study literature in the understanding that issues of nationality, transnationalism, regionalism, race, and ethnicity are contested spaces that invite constant redrawing. Literature can be read as reflecting as well as shaping this dynamic interplay historically and as a space where these tensions can be tested and discussed today. 

Space, place and environment 
When astronauts on the Apollo 17 took this photo of the Earth as a small blue planet surrounded by infinite space, they sparked a sense of belonging that grew into the environmental movement. Like photos, literary texts shape our perceptions of the spaces we live in, expressing and affecting our connections to our environment. This spatial perspective is fully integrated into your ecocritical readings of literature’s role in shaping and contesting ideas of wilderness, interconnectedness, and belonging. In our ecocriticism courses, you explore literary as well as visual representations of the relations between humans and their environment from the early modern period until now. You learn to think about the role scale and perceptions of space play in environmental awareness, and the ways literature can foster a sense of connection with places. 

Mapping the body 
Like the nation and ecology, the body -- whether human or animal – is a contested space. While dominated in Western cultures by the Cartesian distinction between body and mind for centuries, various discussions about the classification, demarcation, function, and nature of the body have taken root since the last century. These have intensified in this century as a result of new scientific discoveries, new and anticipated future technological developments, and the influence of non-Western cultures. We are principally concerned with the literary and visual representation of the body as being gendered, enslaved, traumatized, and having agency or not, and the relationship with hegemonic discourses in society, from early modern times to now. We are, in other words, interested in the notion of life as an embodied experience, and how literary forms provide a space to foreground that issue. We welcome students who are eager to work in that area. 

Electives 
In the first year, next to the core courses and modules in the Humanities Research Master, you also choose 4 MA courses offered by the department, or opt for a course from other departments in the faculty (see below). Three of our MA courses have a specific spatial focus, and are therefore recommended in the schedule above: 

Place and Planet in the Anthropocene 
In this course, you explore how recent novels respond to our changing sense of planet in the context of the current climate crisis. Geologists have suggested that the current era be named the ‘Anthropocene’ to mark human’s overwhelming impact on the earth. We analyze literary texts from the perspective of questions of space, place, and environment to see how what Adam Trexler has called Anthropocene fictions respond to this increasing awareness of human impact on the planet. Using concepts such as sense of place, interconnectedness, belonging, and hyperobject, we explore how novels shape new ways of inhabiting our planet in the current climate crisis. 

The Diasporic Experience 
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 and imagery of diaspora life, do authors and artists relate similar (chronological) outlines of displacement, uprootedness, intercultural encounters, transculturation and cultural hybridization? Or have they come up with new and innovative (non)plots and imageries? How do gender, race, ethnicity and nationality intersect in their projects? 

Gothic Spaces 
The Gothic as a literary genre has undergone several defined phases of ‘production, style and representation’ since the eighteenth century. The course ‘Gothic Spaces’ will examine how important the concept of ‘space’ has been in this development of the genre. Specifically, we will look at how the Gothic problematizes the relationship between ideas of place in terms of cultural, geographical and as an abstract location of meaning and examine the ways in which Gothic spaces are almost always ambiguous and liminal-a characteristic that might explain our enduring interest in the genre. 

Electives outside the department 
In addition to these courses, you may either choose another course from our regular MA programme, or opt for a course with a spatial perspective offered by another department, for example the course Biography of Landscape (6 EC, period 2) in the Landscape and Heritage module of the Research Master Classics and Ancient Civilizations, or a course in the specialization Migration and Mobility in the MA History, which focuses on the history of a mobile world in which migration, travel, tourism and pilgrimage have always been central to human interactions and identities, linking that history to contemporary political debates on migration, nation, ethnicity and diaspora.

For a course schedule full Literature & Contested Spaces programme see PDF 

The Research Master specialization Literature & Contested Spaces prepares you for a career as a researcher. We will train you in the skills required to pursue a PhD within academia, and guide you in the writing of a research proposal for a PhD project. You may also become a researcher in a cultural institution, government agency, or NGO. 

Lectures 
Our programme is taught by enthusiastic lecturers whose research focuses on the relations between literature and the body, transnational exchange, and ecocriticism. The lecturers in the programme are specialists in the field of English or American Literature, from the early modern period to now. We also draw on the expertise of researchers of Dutch literature from the Golden Age to now. Our lecturers, mentors and tutors will provide you with individual guidance in the pursuit of your research interests to ensure that you make the most of the possibilities on offer at our university.  

Humanities connected 
The specialization Literature & Contested Spaces is part of the Humanities Research Master, which offers you the possibility to specialize in the environmental humanities – a specialization which aligns closely with the spatial perspective of this specialization. To explore interconnections between literature and cultural history from the perspective of the spatial turn, two of the core courses in our specialization are co-taught with researchers from the history department. In these courses, you explore relations between humans and the environment, transnational cultural exchange, or the shaping and contestation of national identity from a cultural historical perspective, exploring literary texts as well as other historical sources.  

Shape your own trajectory 
In our research master specialization, you have the freedom to plan your own trajectory together with your mentor. If you are interested in English and American literature, you may choose to take part in Master’s courses that take a spatial perspective on literature. It is also possible to take a tutorial in one of the research focuses of your lecturers, or to take courses outside of the department that enrich your understanding of the role of space in literary studies. In the National Research Schools you take courses on topics related to your research focus, where you will exchange ideas with PhD students and gain a broader perspective on the practice of research.  

  • Students of the Research Master: Literature and Social Change run an online academic journal titled Digressions: Amsterdam Journal of Critical Theory, Cultural Analysis, and Creative Writing.
  • In addition, they meet with other VU Amsterdam Master students in the book club The Purloined Letter. 
  • Various staff members regularly organize outings to museum exhibitions, public lectures, and film screenings in Amsterdam. 
  • Facilities during your studies

Amber Witsenburg

Student

Amber_Witsenburg

"This Research Master gives me the opportunity to dive further into my specific research interests. Within the research master I have a lot of freedom to compose my own study programme and take courses within other disciplines and at different universities. This way I am broadening my knowledge of literature by learning more about aspects of cultural analysis and philosophy, which I think will greatly help me in my research field."

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Overview Humanities Research: Literature & Contested Spaces

taal

English

duur

2 years

aanmeldenvoor

1 June for Dutch and EU-students, 1 April for non-EU students

vorm

Full-time

interessegebied

Art, Culture and History/Language and Communication

Karin Diks

Alumna

"The Research Master was at once a joy and a challenge. I hugely liked the master courses: the topics, theories and methods taught with passion, the lively classroom debates, and the unexpected insights and twists. It was equally nice to learn what fellow students were working on. Gradually, I developed a passion for postmillennial urban fiction and poetry. Always, I enjoyed discussing transnationalism, postcoloniality, history, intertextuality, spaces and places with my supervisor, Dr Babs Boter. Memorable were the tutorial meetings, in the company of impressively experienced researchers, on Jahan Ramazani’s Poetry and its Others (2014), supervised by Prof. Dr Diederik Oostdijk. I always left those meetings with a buzzing head (in a good way). Marvellous it was to present my work to Dr Ramazani in person at a tutorial mini-conference. Finally, the great moment came when my loose, unruly ideas had fused into a consistent whole, securely penned within my thesis confines."

Thesis title: Postcolonial Fiction in the Postmillennial Metropolis Explored: Space, Place and Intertexts in Open City (2011) and NW (2012). 

Dutch students

Met de volgende bachelordiploma´s kun je instromen in de onderzoeksmaster Letterkunde:

  • Literatuur & Samenleving: Nederlands of Engels
  • Literatuurwetenschap
  • Klassieke talen
  • Een van de moderne talen (Duits, Engels, Frans, Nederlands)
  • Algemene cultuurwetenschappen met een letterkundig profiel

Daarnaast moet je voldoen aan de volgende voorwaarden:

  • Een studievoorstel, waarin je je studiekeuze en belangstelling voor de wetenschap motiveert en je interessesfeer aanduidt;
  • Goede studieresultaten; voor de letterkundeonderdelen tijdens je derde studiejaar moet je gemiddeld een 7,5 hebben;
  • Een bachelorscriptie met een eindcijfer van 7,5 of hoger;
  • Goede kennis van het Engels. Het is in je voordeel wanneer je daarnaast meerdere talen spreekt.
Scholarships (EU students)

The Graduate School of Humanities offers three scholarships for three excellent students from the Netherlands and other EU countries:  
1. Humanities Connected Scholarship
Offered by the VU Graduate School of Humanities
2. Digital Humanities Scholarship
Offered by VU Network Institute
3. Environmental Humanities Scholarship
Offered by VU CLUE+ Research Institute for Culture, History and Heritage 

The Humanities scholarship consists of a tuition fee waiver for one year of your Humanities Research Master program. These scholarships do not provide any additional allowance towards study or living costs. Application date: before May 15, 2017.
 
The Graduate School of Humanities Scholarship Programme (GSH-­‐SP) offers talented prospective Dutch and European Union students unique support to pursue a Research Master’s degree at the Faculty of Humanities of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. All applications received by 15 May 2017
will be reviewed by the Graduate School of Humanities, and members of CLUE and Network Institute. The award is based on a motivation letter, the quality of previous education and the student's academic performance therein. A scholarship offer will be made to successful candidates.
 
Eligible candidates 
The VU Humanities Research Master scholarships are for strongly motivated students with excellent study results. Eligible candidates must be able to prove their academic excellence, and they must have enrolled for the Humanities Research Master programme of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Students from outside the EU are not eligible for admission: they can apply for the VU Fellowship programme. 
 
Scholarship 
The GSH scholarship is a tuition fee waiver. GSH scholarship does not provide any additional
allowance towards study or living costs.

Application procedure

1. Register for Master’s programme
Students register for the Humanities Research Master's programme. Enrollment is done through one of the four specializations: 

Humanities Research: Global History
Humanities Research: Critical Studies in Art and Culture 
Humanities Research: Literature & Contested Spaces 
Humanities Research: Linguistics

Please follow the guidelines for enrollment on these specialization websites.

2. Submit application for the GSH Scholarship:
For GSH Scholarship application 3 documents are required:
A.    Transcript of records: a certified list of the academic results obtained to date
(qualifications and lists of grades).
B.     Motivation Letter
Write a strong motivation letter in which you explain your motivation for the application.
Please indicate:
•       What scholarship you apply for: Humanities, Digital Humanities, Environmental
Humanities.
•       Why do you want to study this specific programme / topic? Please also integrate your first
ideas about how you envision your study programme.
•       What do you aspire after your degree?
•       Why do you deserve the scholarship?
Do not hesitate to mention other motivations as well, we like own initiative!
C.     Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Send in the documents to the VU Graduate School of Humanities:
graduate.school.fgw@vu.nl

3. Decision
The Committee decides which students will be offered a scholarship. The Committee makes a merit
based selection.

4. Results
All students will receive a notification that their application has been received and, 4 weeks
after the deadline, an e-­‐mail informing them of the scholarships Committee's decision concerning
their application. Expected date of final decision: 30 May 2017.

5. Acceptance of GSH scholarship
Selected candidates accept/decline the scholarship offer through email before June 15 2017. For
pressing questions regarding the GSH scholarship, please send an email to:
graduate.school.fgw@vu.nl

Wie toegelaten wil worden tot het masteropleiding Literature & Contested spaces moet zich voor 1 juni aanmelden via Studielink voor de opleiding Humanities (Research). Na aanmelding in Studielink ontvang je een e-mail met je inlogcodes voor VUnet (VU studentenportal). In VUnet rond je je aanmelding af. Vul bij specialisatie Literature & Contested spaces in. Als laatste moet je de volgende documenten per email aan toelating.fgw@vu.nl sturen:

De toelatingscommissie beslist binnen 30 werkdagen op je verzoek tot toelating. Zodra je bent toegelaten ontvang je hierover bericht via Studielink.

Stel je vraag over deze master via: studiekeuze.fgw@vu.nl

Mastervoorlichting 
Kijk hier wanneer de volgende voorlichtingsactiviteit plaatsvindt.

International students

Required level of entry 
The research master's programme is aimed at the talented student who is exceptionally motivated to train in academic methods in the field of literature and its history. To be admitted to the programme, the student should have a bachelor’s diploma in Literary Studies, or one of its applied fields, such as English literature, French literature, Dutch literature, et cetera. The student should also have a proficient level of academic English, proof of excellent study results and motivation for doing academic research. 

Exemptions to these rules are possible, e.g. for students who followed the honors programme, or studied more than one bachelor’s programme. Students can apply for exemptions in their letter of motivation to the Board of Admissions 

English Language entry requirements 
All master students whose first language is not English including both home and international students must be able to provide recent evidence that their spoken and written command of the English language is appropriate. This requirement is specified in order to ensure that the academic progress of students is not hindered by language difficulties.

Acceptable qualifications 
Listed below are all the English language qualifications and tests and the level required to satisfy our English language entry requirements. The qualification or test result must have been awarded no more than two years prior to the proposed date of enrolment.

  • IELTS Academic Version: Overall grade of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each of the subtests.
  • TOEFL paper based test: Overall grade of 600 with a minimum of 55 in each of the subtests plus 4.0 in TWE. 
  • TOEFL internet based test: Overall grade of 100 with a minimum of 20-23 in each of the subtests. 
  • Cambridge Advanced English: A, B or C.

Exemption 
Exemption from the requirements listed above can be awarded to students who have fulfilled the following requirements no longer than two years prior to the date of enrolment: 

  • students who have fulfilled the requirements of the VU English language proficiency test TOEFL ITP, with the required scores. For more information please consult Taalloket.
  • Students from one of the following countries: Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand of Australia.
  • Students holding an International Baccalaureate degree in English.
  • Students holding a Bachelor degree in English Language and Culture from a Dutch University.
  • Students holding a Bachelor degree Literature and Society: English from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 

The required evidence should, if possible, be included with the complete application. If either unsatisfactory or no evidence of English language proficiency has been provided with the application, admission will be conditional upon the provision of such evidence. This condition will be clearly indicated on the offer letter and must be fulfilled before enrolment at the VU Amsterdam. 

All lectures and student presentations are in English, all written assignments as well. Therefore all prospective students must be proficient in English. The VU courses Academic English: Grammar and Academic English: Writing (or similar courses at another university) are strongly recommended in your bachelor programme. 


Scholarships (EU students)

The Graduate School of Humanities offers three scholarships for three excellent students from the Netherlands and other EU countries:  
1. Humanities Connected Scholarship
Offered by the VU Graduate School of Humanities
2. Digital Humanities Scholarship
Offered by VU Network Institute
3. Environmental Humanities Scholarship
Offered by VU CLUE+ Research Institute for Culture, History and Heritage 

The Humanities scholarship consists of a tuition fee waiver for one year of your Humanities Research Master program. These scholarships do not provide any additional allowance towards study or living costs. Application date: before May 15, 2017.
 
The Graduate School of Humanities Scholarship Programme (GSH-­‐SP) offers talented prospective Dutch and European Union students unique support to pursue a Research Master’s degree at the Faculty of Humanities of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. All applications received by 15 May 2017
will be reviewed by the Graduate School of Humanities, and members of CLUE and Network Institute. The award is based on a motivation letter, the quality of previous education and the student's academic performance therein. A scholarship offer will be made to successful candidates.
 
Eligible candidates 
The VU Humanities Research Master scholarships are for strongly motivated students with excellent study results. Eligible candidates must be able to prove their academic excellence, and they must have enrolled for the Humanities Research Master programme of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Students from outside the EU are not eligible for admission: they can apply for the VU Fellowship programme. 
 
Scholarship 
The GSH scholarship is a tuition fee waiver. GSH scholarship does not provide any additional
allowance towards study or living costs.

Application procedure

1. Register for Master’s programme
Students register for the Humanities Research Master's programme. Enrollment is done through one of the four specializations: 

Humanities Research: Global History
Humanities Research: Critical Studies in Art and Culture 
Humanities Research: Literature & Contested Spaces 
Humanities Research: Linguistics

Please follow the guidelines for enrollment on these specialization websites.

2. Submit application for the GSH Scholarship:
For GSH Scholarship application 3 documents are required:
A.    Transcript of records: a certified list of the academic results obtained to date
(qualifications and lists of grades).
B.     Motivation Letter
Write a strong motivation letter in which you explain your motivation for the application.
Please indicate:
•       What scholarship you apply for: Humanities, Digital Humanities, Environmental
Humanities.
•       Why do you want to study this specific programme / topic? Please also integrate your first
ideas about how you envision your study programme.
•       What do you aspire after your degree?
•       Why do you deserve the scholarship?
Do not hesitate to mention other motivations as well, we like own initiative!
C.     Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Send in the documents to the VU Graduate School of Humanities:
graduate.school.fgw@vu.nl

3. Decision
The Committee decides which students will be offered a scholarship. The Committee makes a merit
based selection.

4. Results
All students will receive a notification that their application has been received and, 4 weeks
after the deadline, an e-­‐mail informing them of the scholarships Committee's decision concerning
their application. Expected date of final decision: 30 May 2017.

5. Acceptance of GSH scholarship
Selected candidates accept/decline the scholarship offer through email before June 15 2017. For
pressing questions regarding the GSH scholarship, please send an email to:
graduate.school.fgw@vu.nl

Programme 
For more information on the programme, contact dr. Kristine Steenbergh

Application 
For detailed questions about the Master’s programmes or the application procedure contact your International Student Advisor at the International Office: 
Irena Bunic      
T: +31 (20) 59 85252
E: admissionsfh@vu.nl 

Information days 
Meet us in Amsterdam!