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Masters in Humanities Research: Literature & Contested Spaces

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Program overview
2 years
Full time
Master's degree
Start dates
12,690 EUR
September 2021

12,690 EUR
September 2022

12,690 EUR
September 2023

Program description

Masters in Humanities Research: Literature & Contested Spaces

In this Research Master specialization, you examine the roles literary texts play in the representation and shaping of contested spaces. Novels, poems, and plays shape our perceptions and affect our lived experience of such spaces as the nation, wilderness, or the body. These spaces are contested in our current context, and have been in the past centuries. In the seminars, tutorials and individual research projects, you explore how literary texts have played a role in shaping our experience of such contested spaces. In this specialization, you pursue your fascination with the ways in which literary representations interact with real or imagined spaces, geographies and ecosystems. You focus on literature and three kinds of contested space: the (trans)national, the environment, and the body. This program welcomes students who are keen to hone their critical thinking and research skills in this field; they offer you the chance to pursue your research interests under the guidance of specialists in the field.

The (trans)national as contested space 

The role of the nation state and its connection to supranational organizations is one of the most hotly debated issues in politics today. As Brexit and the current American elections show, the sovereignty of the nation state may be making a comeback. Yet political developments can also be read as reactions to an unstoppable globalizing process that has accelerated since the twentieth century, and which has had an impact on the canon, on the student population, and the curriculum. In the wake of the transnational turn that has questioned mononational narratives of literature, they study literature in the understanding that issues of nationality, transnationalism, regionalism, race, and ethnicity are contested spaces that invite constant redrawing. Literature can be read as reflecting as well as shaping this dynamic interplay historically and as a space where these tensions can be tested and discussed today. 

Space, place and environment 

When astronauts on the Apollo 17 took this photo of the Earth as a small blue planet surrounded by infinite space, they sparked a sense of belonging that grew into the environmental movement. Like photos, literary texts shape our perceptions of the spaces we live in, expressing and affecting our connections to our environment. This spatial perspective is fully integrated into your ecocritical readings of literature’s role in shaping and contesting ideas of wilderness, interconnectedness, and belonging. In our ecocriticism courses, you explore literary as well as visual representations of the relations between humans and their environment from the early modern period until now. You learn to think about the role scale and perceptions of space play in environmental awareness, and the ways literature can foster a sense of connection with places. 

Mapping the body 

Like the nation and ecology, the body -- whether human or animal – is a contested space. While dominated in Western cultures by the Cartesian distinction between body and mind for centuries, various discussions about the classification, demarcation, function, and nature of the body have taken root since the last century. These have intensified in this century as a result of new scientific discoveries, new and anticipated future technological developments, and the influence of non-Western cultures. They are principally concerned with the literary and visual representation of the body as being gendered, enslaved, traumatized, and having agency or not, and the relationship with hegemonic discourses in society, from early modern times to now. We are, in other words, interested in the notion of life as an embodied experience, and how literary forms provide a space to foreground that issue. We welcome students who are eager to work in that area. 

The study program of 120 ECTS (60 ECTS per year) consists of mandatory and elective parts. 

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Admission requirements

Admission requirements: 

  1. A Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent
  2. A copy of your bachelor thesis and other papers/essays you have written that might be relevant
  3. Motivation Letter
  4. Transcript of Records
  5. Present official test results proving your proficiency in English

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Tuition fees

  • EU-EER students fee: € 2,168
  • NON-EU students fee: € 12,690


MA Literature & Contested spaces

Continuing studies

Career prospects

The Research Master specialization Literature & Contested Spaces prepares you for a career as a researcher. We will train you in the skills required to pursue a PhD within academia, and guide you in the writing of a research proposal for a PhD project. You may also become a researcher in a cultural institution, government agency, or NGO. 

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About this institute

Welcome to Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (‘VU Amsterdam’) is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 175 English-taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to more than 26,000 students from all over the world. Students and staff...

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Why study at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

With more than 24,000 students, of which 4,088 are international, VU Amsterdam conducts cutting-edge research into problems of societal and scientific importance.

They distinguish themselves in research and education through four interdisciplinary themes:

  • Human Health and Life Sciences
  • Science for Sustainability
  • Connected World
  • Governance for Society

As a student this will help you to look beyond the boundaries of scientific disciplines, and to seek for tangible solutions for a better world.

In addition, VU Amsterdam regards diversity, whether in culture, conviction, nationality or prior education, as source of innovation and progress, and hence as special strength.

The Dutch higher education system has been ranked in the top 10 by Universitas 21. In the first Times Higher Education University Impact Ranking, VU Amsterdam is ranked 16th worldwide. In this ranking, universities are assessed based on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to measure the impact of the universities on society. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2018 (Shanghai Ranking) VU Amsterdam holds the 104th position. The international QS World University ranking 2021 places the Vrije Universiteit at number 236 in the world, which means the Vrije Universiteit belongs to the top 20% of the world.

At VU Amsterdam, the teaching style can be described as student-centred: they encourage students to develop their own opinions through independent and creative thinking. This means that teaching is mainly conducted in small tutorials, where interactivity is the norm rather than the exception. At every opportunity, students are encouraged to engage in constructive dialogue with their professors.

Contact info

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam
Netherlands, the

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