How do different cultures and societies think about the present, remember the past, and imagine the future in and through literature? And how has literature itself been understood and theorised across historical periods and geographical boundaries? In the RMA Comparative Literary Studies we approach literature as a cultural medium from a comparative, theoretical perspective.

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In this programme you will have the opportunity to explore these and related questions. At Utrecht we focus on modern and contemporary literature from different language areas. What sets the Utrecht programme apart is a strong focus on literary and cultural history and memory, literary theory and criticism, and world literature.

As a student in this programme you will learn to analyse the ways in which literature interacts with (and reflects on) its cultural and social environment against the background of globalisation and new media technologies.

A unique comparative approach

The programme offers a unique comparative approach to literature, which includes comparisons across languages, across media, across time, across forms of knowledge, and – through the course Humanities Today – across disciplines. The ‘comparative’ approach characteristic for Utrecht is understood to involve comparison between literary phenomena along four principal axes:

  1. Transculturality (how does literature reflect and negotiate cultural differences and operate across national borders?)
  2. Mediality (how does literature work as a medium and how does it interact with other media? how are literary phenomena adapted to other media? )
  3. Memory (how do stories and cultural forms survive across generations and how are they transformed across time?) 
  4. Discursivity (how does literature function as a m ode of knowledge production and how does it relate to other forms of knowledge, both scientific and creative?)
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You will not only learn about recent debates on the specificity of literature; in addition you will have the opportunity of connecting literary studies to interdisciplinary debates in the fields of cultural memory studies, media studies, postcolonial studies, gender studies, animal studies, and disability studies. You are encouraged to think through the links between mediality, textuality, materiality, and representation, and to experiment with different approaches to researching a particular topic or object. For example, in the Literature in the Postcolony core course, our students contribute to a growing archive of “cultural maps” with an original research project. Take a look at the archive

International orientation

You will be reading literatures from different language areas (in the original and in translation), while also having the possibility of specialising in one of the European languages in your electives (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian). All students, Dutch students in particular, are strongly encouraged to spend a semester abroad. Also, all core seminars are in English. The programme encourages applications from outside the Netherlands.

A vibrant research environment

As a student in Comparative Literary studies, you will be taught by internationally active researchers. You will also have the possibility of participating in the many workshops and international conferences they organise in the field of literary studies.

Esprit de corps

The Comparative Literary Studies programme in Utrecht has a close-knit community of students and faculty from all over the world. We regularly organise academic and social events, such as the Modern and Contemporary Literature Seminar and the monthly Comp Lit Stammtisch. Here, you will have the opportunity to meet current and former RMA students, visiting scholars, affiliated PhD students and researchers, as well as the faculty, have a drink and socialise. We are a small programme and we place an emphasis on fostering a sense of community. The fact that many of our former students continue to come to our social events attests to the esprit de corps that exists here.

A teaching staff with wide-ranging expertise

Our international teaching staff has a wide range of expertise in de field of modern languages, literary theory, intermediality, postcolonial studies, and cultural memory studies. Take a look at their profile pages in order to get a sense of their academic interests and specialties. 

Meet our teaching staff

Comparative Literary Studies prepares you for a range of different careers, both academic and non-academic, that require advanced research skills along with expertise in the fields of literary and cultural analysis. 

More on career prospects

Comparative Literary Studies is a selective Master’s programme. Do you want to know if you are eligible for this Master?

Check the entry requirements

Key facts

Literary Studies (research)
Language of instruction: 
Mode of study: 
Study duration: 
2 years
Tuition fees: 
Dutch and other EU/EEA students (statutory fee, full-time) 2023-2024: € 2,314

Non-EU/EEA students (institutional fee) 2023-2024: € 18,332

More information about fees
Croho code: 
Accredited by the NVAO
Graduate school: