Projects and Networks

The Modern and Contemporary Literature research group works on a wide range of projects. Apart from the selection listed below, our group members also have a leading role in the Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies and Terra Critica, where many activities take place, and and participate in various other networks.


Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies

The Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies offers an interdisciplinary platform for researchers working in the field of cultural memory

Terra Critica

Terra Critica is an international research network in the humanities, bringing together scholars specialising in critical and cultural theory. It aims to strengthen the Critical Humanities as a crucial site for critical analyses of our present.

Network for Environmental Humanities

The Network for Environmental Humanities brings together scholars from different fields and disciplines with an interest in the relationship between humans and the natural world.

Perpetrator Studies Network

The Perpetrator Studies Network is an international and interdisciplinary network of scholars and educators whose research and teaching centers on perpetrators and perpetration of genocide, mass killings, and political violence.

Critical Pathways 

Critical Pathways aims to strengthen the involvement of Social Sciences, Law and Humanities scholars in sustainability research and foster collaborations across all faculties. 

Creative Humanities Academy

The Creative Humanities Academy connects professionals and makers in the cultural field with academic researchers and students, and offers postgraduate education and consultancy for professionals and institutions in the cultural and creative sector. 

Turning the Page - The Material Book in a Digital World

This film was made for the international conference 'Book presence in the digital age', May 2012.

Current projects

Reading Zoos in the Age of the Anthropocene

The zoo has always been the paradigmatic site for human-animal encounters in modernity. Authors, artists, and filmmakers have long been drawn to this space as a source of inspiration and as a means for reflecting on social, political, and global issues. In the past two decades, public awareness of the negative human impact on the planet, notably climate change and mass extinctions, has been growing. Scientists argue we have entered a new era in the history of the planet: the “Anthropocene”. During the same period, the zoo has become a focal point for a new wave of literary and cinematic representations which reflect the fears and uncertainties about the future, but also seek to imagine alternative scenarios. This project takes these representations as a lens through which to explore how the relationship between humans and the natural world is changing in the age of the Anthropocene.

  • Project leader: Dr Kári Driscoll
  • Duration: 2018 - 2021
  • Funding: NWO VENI Grant
The Author as Policy Officer: Dutch Literary Policy From Below (1960s-today)

Bringing together Cultural Policy Studies, Literary Studies, field theory, and posture theory for the first time, this project explores the vital role of authors in shaping Dutch literary policies since the 1960s. A focus on literature is in itself new to Cultural Policy Studies, but more importantly this project introduces a bottom-up approach to policy. This approach leads to a better understanding of the agency of individuals in policy systems they are subject to.

  • Project leader: Dr Laurens Ham
  • Duration: 2018 - 2022
  • Funding: NWO VENI Grant
“La femme esclave”: Afterlives of Slavery and Abolitionism in Women’s Rights Movements in France, Germany, and the Netherlands, 1832-1914

From the 'slavery' of married women to the 'white slavery' of prostitution Sophie van den Elzen seeks to answer the question: How did the cultural memory of the abolitionist movement in the Anglo-American world, carried into Europe by narratives in text and images, inform and help shape the discourse of women’s rights movements in Germany, France and the Netherlands?

At the empirical level, the project will provide a new understanding of the international entanglements of social movements over a longer period; theoretically, it will add to our understanding of the transnational dynamics of cultural memory and reception processes by examining the unexpected ‘afterlives’ of the particularly evocative cultural narrative of antislavery as it changes over time and moves across space; methodologically, it seeks to mobilise methods of literary research to better understand discourses of social activism, developing a model for mapping reception through processes of dissemination, translation, and appropriation across borders.

Yugoslavia Revisited: Socialism remembered in literature and the arts

This interdisciplinary project aims to investigate how post-Yugoslav literature and art remembers the heydays of socialist Yugoslavia (1950s-1970s) and how these acts of remembrance critically intervene in the public sphere. Focusing on a number of selected cases from prose fiction, film, visual art and performance/theater, the project will scrutinise how the arts ‘archive’, ‘document’ or ‘recall’ the everyday life and memory of socialist Yugoslavia. Moreover, it will examine how critical cultural practices and the memories they mediate help envision a better future and open up new avenues to cosmopolitanism.

  • Prof. Ann Rigney
  • Duration: 2015 - 2017
  • Funding: Marie Curie Action 'Intra-European fellowships for career development'
Making the Move: Memoirs of Migration

How and why do life stories about migration matter to migrants and to the human rights humanitarian organizations that try to help them? This project brings together an interdisciplinary research team and the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), to investigate the circulation and reception of migration stories in communities and organizations that support new migrants.

  • Project leader: Prof. Julie Rak (University of Alberta)
  • Co-investigators: Dr Anna Poletti (Utrecht University), Prof. Amy Kaler (University of Alberta), Prof. DeNel Rehberg Sedo (Mount Saint Vincent University), Dr Danielle Fuller (University of Birmingham)
  • Duration: 2016 - 2019
  • Funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada / KULE Institute, University of Alberta
Literature and Religion in Italian Modernism

Situated in the context of the current debate on the history of Italian modernism, this research project aims at reconstructing in a systematic fashion the relationship - both conflictual and complicit - between religion and literary production in Italy from the end of the nineteenth century to World War Two. Surprisingly, given the importance of the Catholic Church as both a religious faith and a social and political institution in forming Italian cultural life, this has never been the subject of a comprehensive and in-depth study. On the contrary, we argue that one of the elements that characterize Italian modernism is precisely its reliance on tropes, motifs and rhetorical strategies derived from the discursive field of religion, and its ongoing concern with the proper place of faith in public life. At once theological and political, the 'modernism' debates within the Catholic Church point to the ways that modernity in Italy was as enmeshed in and indebted to the transformations and tensions within Catholicism as it was to the effects of industrialization and modernization.

  • Project leader: Prof. Luca Somigli (University of Toronto)
  • Collaborator: Dr Monica Jansen (Utrecht University)
  • Duration: 2015 - 2019
  • Funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
I work, therefore I am (European)

I work, therefore I am (European) (IWIAME) is an international Jean Monnet Project funded by the EACEA (EU Commission) in the frame of the Erasmus+ Programmes. With the present project we aim at organising an international conference – “I work, therefore I am (European) ” – by bringing together academics, stakeholders, politicians and intellectuals from different European countries around the topic of labour considered from both a juridical-political and a humanistic perspective.

  • Project leader: Prof. Maurizio Ferraris (University of Torino)
  • Partners & consultants: Prof. Pier Virgilio Dastoli (Movimento Europeo), Prof. Luigi Moccia (University of Roma Tre), Prof. Filip Dorssemont (UC Louvain), Dr Monica Jansen (Utrecht University), Dr Massimiliano Tortora (University of Torino)
  • Duration: Sept 2016 - March 2018
  • Funded by: Jean Monnet, Erasmus +

Past projects

Back to the Book

Back to the Book is devoted to books and paper as bodies of literature in a digital age. Books are no longer dominant cultural media – though most of the pads and readers that will allegedly be replacing books still try to be just that: to be books. Yet if books are dying, what is happening to literature as an art form? Is it shifting toward the electronic field? Is literature being reborn digitally, is this the end – in a double sense – of the book?

Cultural Exchange in a Time of Global Conflict: Colonials, Neutrals and Belligerents during the First World War

How did the First World War create new spaces for, as well as put new pressures, on encounters between peoples and cultures from belligerent, colonised and politically neutral countries? And what were the lasting consequences (in terms of social, cultural and literary memory) for Europe? This research project brings together a cross-disciplinary and multilingual team of researchers and a number of cultural institutions across Europe to illuminate and examine this question during the centennial years of the war’s commemoration.

  • Project leader: Dr Santanu Das (King's College London)
  • Members: Prof. Geert Buelens (Utrecht University), Dr Heike Liebau (Zentrum Moderner Orient, Germany), Prof. Hubert van den Berg (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland)
  • Funded by HERA 
Faces of Evil: The Figure of the Perpetrator in Contemporary Memory Culture

This project traces the figure of the perpetrator through post-1989 memory culture in Germany and Romania, where the joint legacies of Fascism and Communism render questions of perpetration and victimhood inherently ambiguous and complex. Knittel analyses the role of perpetrators in literature, drama, film, and at documentary exhibitions. Her aim is to elucidate how these cultures create narratives about their own history through which they negotiate questions of complicity and collaboration in order to ascribe or disavow guilt and responsibility. 

  • Principal investigator: Dr Susanne Knittel
  • Duration: 2014 - 2017
  • Funding: NWO VENI Grant
In Search of Transcultural Memory in Europe (ISTME)

This project aims to go beyond the nationally oriented memory studies that tend to reify the bond between culture, nation and memory. Instead we investigate the transcultural dynamics of memory in Europe today. Studying how memories of the troubled twentieth century are transmitted and received across Europe, this Action explores the tension between attempts to create a common European memory, or a unitary memory ethics, on the one hand and numerous memory conflicts stemming from Europe’s fragmentation into countless memory communities on the other. Prof. Ann Rigney is amongst the participants of this project, which is chaired by Prof. Barbara Törnquist-Plewa (Lund University, Sweden).

  • Funded by the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST)
Network in Transnational Memory Studies (NITMES)

NITMES aims to find new ways of conceptualising and studying cultural memory beyond the framework of the nation-state. In doing so, it hopes to provide tools for understanding identity and heritage that are better fitted to the entanglements of the contemporary world. The network brings together a number of scholars and institutions working in the field of cultural memory studies who will work together in the coming years.

  • Initiator: Prof. Ann Rigney
  • Funding: NWO Internationalisation
Kopf lass’ nach. Pop und intellektualität in der deutschsprachigen literatur seit 1945 / Pop and intellectualism in German literature since 1945

This project investigates the relation between pop culture and intellectuality in German literature and culture from the 1950s to the present. While pop culture and intellectual culture have usually been discussed independently from each other or, at best, as opposites, the aim of the study is to show them as two interdependent factors, sometimes competing, sometimes converging in their concepts about literature, culture, and society in post-war West Germany. In a historical and systematic perspective it will be discussed how this dynamic between pop and intellectuality becomes productive in the writings of contemporary authors such as Hubert Fichte, Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, Rainald Goetz, and Thomas Meinecke.

  • Principal investigator: Dr Charis Goer
  • Duration: 2012 - 2016
  • Funded by the Stiftung Alfried Krupp Kolleg Greifswald and the University of Paderborn