The changing roles of literature in a global context

The research group Modern and Contemporary Literature offers a unique combination of expertise with respect to literature written in the modern and contemporary period. We study the changing forms and functions of literature from the perspective of its interactions with other cultural practices in a changing media landscape. Our approach is transnational and comparative, with a concern both for literatures written in European languages and world literature in translation.

Our research provides a detailed account of how changes in literary forms have related to the exploration of new themes and to changes in society; identifies the stories which we live by in an increasingly globalised and mediatised world; explains how those stories come into being and why some, but not all of them of them move across the borders of media, languages and generations; and establishes their impact on personal and social identities.


E.g., 11/18/2018
Rosanne Kennedy. Foto: ANU/Stuart Hay
19 November 2018 16:15 - 18:00
On 19 November 2018 Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies organizes a seminar with Rosanne Kennedy on holocaust remembrance.
20 November 2018 15:00 - 17:00
On Tuesday 20 November, dr. Tom Idema will present his paper titled ‘Stages of Transmutation: Science Fiction, Biology, and Environmental Posthumanism’.
Finse kinderen aan boord van de Acturus, op weg naar Zweden, juni 1941. Bron: Wikimedia
26 November 2018 17:00 - 19:00
On 26 November Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies organizes a seminar with Hanna-Leena Nissilä on forced migration in Finland.




28 September 2018
In July 2018 a special issue of journal 'Memory Studies' has been published, edited by Prof Astrid Erll and Prof Ann Rigney.
10 September 2018
Kiene Brillenburg Wurth, Karí Driscoll and Jessica Pressman edited the volume 'Book Presence in a Digital Age'.
6 September 2018
Prof. dr. Kiene Brillenburg Wurth is guest editor of a special issue for the journal 'Comparative Literature', which launched on September 1.

Research focus areas

What role does literature play along with other media in the production of shared narratives about the diversity of our collective past and future? How does the production of cultural memory relate to shifting ideas about citizenship and historical justice? What ideas of utopia and dystopia can we find in literary texts? How are (post)national subjectivities articulated in literature? What is the continued importance of literature as a site of public speaking and listening in a diverse media ecology? By addressing such research questions, our work contributes to the focus area Gender and Diversity Hub and strategic theme Institutions for Open Societies.

What literature can teach us about institutions

We provide qualitative and historically informed accounts of how non-institutionalised forms of ‘common knowledge’ are culturally produced. Stories inform current practices of citizenship, ideas of democracy, and the empathy and patterns of identification that are necessary for trust. We also provide insight into the specific role of cultural institutions in the preservation, canonisation, and dissemination of literature and the other arts.