Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies

Courses in Memory Studies

The Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies brings together scholars with interdisciplinary expertise who teach a range of courses in the field of cultural memory across all levels of higher education. The list below presents the courses led by the Forum’s members.

BA Level Courses

Contesting the Past: Literature and the Legacy of Violence

This course examines the ways in which literature contributes to public debate about the meaning of the past. In particular, we examine the role played by literature and film in dealing with divisive and painful memories. Which cultural memories dominate our images of the past, and which events are suppressed? How does literature interact with other media in bringing marginalised stories to light? And in re-imagining the boundaries of nations? We address these questions through the comparative study of novels and movies dealing with civil war (Spain, Northern Ireland) and with the legacy of colonialism (France/Algeria, Netherlands-Indonesia).

This is a level 3 course in the BA programmes Literary Studies and Language and Culture Studies. It is also part of the minor Literature in Conflict and is hence open to students from across the University.

Contesting the Past: The Politics of History, Memory and Heritage

In this course we discuss the past as a politically contested domain: who are the key agents in political conflicts over history? What role does political ideology play in historical cultures? Why do political institutions need collective memory? Why is memory activism important in a democracy? How do historians engage with politics? Do we need a new heritage discourse in the Anthropocene? Together, we explore these and related questions through interdisciplinary literature, case studies and individual research.

This course is open to students enrolled in level 3 of the BA programmes History and Language and Culture Studies at Utrecht University.

The Power of Culture: Introduction to Heritage and Public History

In this course we examine the social, cultural, and political use of the past in the present. Through a series of lectures and an in-depth literature study, students become familiar with the main topics and themes that dominate the intertwined domains of public history, memory and heritage. Students are provided with an analytical and methodological set of tools that will help them to critically evaluate and comment on contemporary use of the past.

This course is open to students enrolled in level 3 the BA programmes History and Language and Culture Studies at Utrecht University.

MA Level Courses

Cultural Memory and Citizenship 

The interdisciplinary field of cultural memory studies brings together researchers with a scholarly interest in the cultural production of memory and its role in shaping collective identities and values. In this seminar, we survey the most recent theoretical literature on these issues and examine the changing memory cultures of the modern period against the background of war and societal change. How do cultural memory and collective identity work together?  How does commemoration shape notions of citizenship, of who ‘belongs’ and who doesn’t? How do remembering and forgetting shape ideas about the future? How do new counter-memory narratives emerge in society?  What role do the arts play in these processes? This seminar introduces students to theoretical debates and current research in the interdisciplinary field of cultural memory studies. Our approach will be comparative and multimedial. While paying special attention to literature, we will look at creative writing alongside and in interaction with the other media and artistic practices through which the past is publicly remembered (monuments, movies, rituals, museums, family albums). 

This course is part of the RMA programme Comparative Literary Studies. It is also open to all RMA students at the Faculty of Humanities.

Public History, Memory and World Heritage. Toward a Participatory Historical Culture

Historians built their discipline on the assumption that the past is a ‘foreign country’ and that any understanding of this country requires experts with special knowledge and skills, that is: trained historians. However, academic historians have never owned the past. Many people engage with the past, through heritage sites, museums and historical theme parks, history education, commemorative rituals, or historical infotainment shaped as novels, movies, reenactments, computer games and the like. In this course we engage with these public uses of the past in order to assess the role of (cultural) historians in a ‘participatory historical culture’.

This course is open to students enrolled in the MA programmes Cultural History of Modern Europe and Dutch Studies at Utrecht University.

Heritage and Identity: Politics in Action

This course familiarizes students with central theoretical concepts, methods, and examples from the heritage studies. Insights from history and anthropology should allow students to study heritage and public history in the 21st century in an interdisciplinary way – a century where not only history is used by the nation-state in creating and legitimizing collective communities. Also multinationals and international organizations today use cultural heritage to normalize their neoliberal agendas and diplomatic networks. We examine how contemporary sociocultural processes, institutional structures and identity politics influence the experience and preservation of the past in the present. By seeing heritage and cultural memory as a cultural text that can be hermeneutically dissected, we also look at how the study of heritage politics can provide innovative insights into the cultural present.

This course is open to students enrolled in the MA programme Cultural History of Modern Europe at Utrecht University.

The Politics of History

This course is designed for students to understand the importance and usage of history and memory in politics at local, national, and international levels. Students will see more clearly how the past has been used to legitimise political action and has motivated political action. Actors in the politics of history comprise diverse institutions including states, regions, and cities as well as civil society organisations such as social movements. Politicians often form alliances with historians as based on political ideologies. Literature from memory studies and nationalism studies is applied to historical case studies as well as contemporary politics. We discuss a broad range of themes such as Holocaust memory in German and international politics since 1945, the politics of official apologies by postcolonial governments, memory activism in cities today, the importance of historical cultures in the organisation of social movements and political parties, and (de)constructions of cultural heritage for political purposes.

This course is open to students enrolled in the MA programme History of Politics and Society at Utrecht University.

Global Politics of Memory and Forgetting

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This course is open to students enrolled in the MA programme International Relations in Historical Perspective at Utrecht University.

Narrazioni e memorie di un’Italia divisa

The course, taking its cue from the historical concept of ‘a divided Italy’ (Foot 2009), offers an in-depth study on the transmedia narratives produced in the context of Italian culture that have elaborated and continue to elaborate a series of “wounds” in a literary and artistic key.

This is a Masterlanguage course open to MA and RMA students.