Each year is divided into two semesters, running from September to January and from February to June. A semester is divided into two study periods. In the 2016-2017 academic year, students will take three courses (of 5 EC each) per study period. 

The Comparative Literary Studies programme (120 EC) is made up of the following components:

Core curriculum

All core courses are designed to develop an awareness of current debates within literary studies and knowledge of the most important theories and methodologies. You will practice formulating research questions and conducting research. Through these activities, you will develop skills in data collection, interpretation, and presenting and editing results to a professional standard. See the courses page for the core courses on offer in Utrecht.


Students follow electives for a total of 40 EC. They should include 10 EC from a Research School in the Netherlands (this does not apply to students who follow 30 EC at a university abroad; in which case they may limit themselves to 5 EC at a research school). 

Students may select as electives:

  • non-compulsory modules offered by the RMA programme
  • modules offered by other RMA programmes in the fields of Media and Performance, Gender Studies,  Religious Studies, Philosophy,  and Nederlandse Letterkunde offered at the Utrecht Faculty of Humanities
  • modules from the one-year master Literature Today (on condition that the number of EC from that master does not exceed 15 EC)

Subject to approval by the examinations board, students may also select modules from a related graduate programme at another faculty in the Netherlands or abroad. See the courses page for some of the electives on offer in Utrecht in 2016-2017.


You  use your electives to specialise in particular topics and develop an individual profile. If doing so, you may also choose to concentrate on the literature of a specific language area (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish).


All Research Master's students complete their programme with a substantial thesis written over a six-month period. In this thesis, you are expected to demonstrate your knowledge of your area of specialisation and your ability to make an innovative contribution to research in this field.

In the past, students in Comparative Literary Studies have written on such topics as:

  • The Romantic cult of Shakespeare (Joke Brasser, 2012)
  • The representation of kites in Victorian Literature (Katrien van Riet, 2012)
  • The cultural memory of Earthquakes in Italy  (Giulia Lattanzio, 2012)
  • Amnesty International’s use of literature in Human Rights campaigns (Loes van de Voort, 2013)
  • The radio plays of Samuel Beckett  as a response to World War Two (Anca Stoiculescu, 2013)
  • The socio-politics of American poetry after 9/11 (Jette van den Eijnden, 2013) 
  • Wandering Memories: Marginalizing and Remembering the Porrajmos (Talitha Hunnik, 2015)
  • Constructing the Cyborg-Soldier: Posthuman Military Enhancements in Veterans' Autobiographical Fiction from WWI to the Present (Thalia Ostendorf, 2016)
  • Cixous and Derrida - A Faithful Amiance to Come Through Writing (Nicoline Simons, 2017)
  • The Post-Yugoslav War Novel: Lost Homes, Lost Cities (Damjan Bozinovic, 2017)

Have a look at the study schedule (pdf).

For our final thesis we are highly encouraged to work on different time periods, regions, languages, and cultures in order to follow our personal interests and career aspirations, which is both motivating and rewarding.

Teaching methods

  • lectures
  • seminars 
  • independent study (including thesis)
  • internship: possible, but not obligatory
  • group work: integrated into the seminars

Group size

Core seminars and elective seminars usually have between 15 and 25 participants, which allows for a strong group dynamic. Tutorials are often taught one-to-one, though they may go up to five students (and often do so in cases of tutorials based on a pre-given topic proffered by a senior researcher).

Interactive sessions

Given the relatively small numbers involved, the teaching is interactive and intensive. Students are encouraged to participate actively in seminars in the form of discussion papers and presentations as well as in the chairing of discussions. Breakout discussions within the framework of classes also occur regularly. Peer review is a structural feature of the core seminars and helps to enhance students’ editorial skills as well as their professional skill in giving and receiving criticism from colleagues.



  • shorter written pieces
  • research assignment combined with a longer final essay
  • active participation in the seminars

With the tutorials, the tutor and student agree on an appropriate mode of assessment and on appropriate deadlines. 

Training in writing

It has become common practice for students to write their final essays in phases (i.e. a first version, peer review, and rewriting). This means that you will be trained in academic editing and can bring your own writing skills up to a high level.