Histories and Theories of Reading: Fourth Series (2018)


PhD students of the Doctoral Schools of Arts, Humanities and Law; PhD students from other (Flemish or Dutch) universities.

While the primary intended audience for the seminar are PhD students in literary studies, the seminar’s historical and conceptual focus make it equally of interest to PhD students working in the field of cultural studies, cultural history, philosophy, the history of philosophy, the history of science, theory of history, art history and linguistics.

Organising/Scientific Committee

Ghent University. Next to the GEMS-co-ordinators:

Prof. Youri Desplenter – Literary Studies youri.desplenter@ugent.be

Prof. Wim Verbaal – Literary Studies wim.verbaal@ugent.be

Prof. Ben Dhooge – Languages and Cultures ben.dhooge@ugent.be

Prof. Jakob De Roover – Department of Comparative Science of Cultures jakob.deroover@ugent.be

Prof. Berber BevernageHistory berber.bevernage@ugent.be

Antwerp University: Prof. Hubert Meeus – Departement Letterkunde hubert.meeus@uantwerpen.be

University of Hasselt: Prof. Kris Pint – Vakgroep Architectuur en Kunst kris.pint@uhasselt.be and Dr. Nadia Sels – Vakgroep Architectuur en Kunst nadia.sels@pxl.be

Free University Brussels: Prof. Inge Arteel – Research Group CLIC inge.arteel@vub.be

Leiden University: Frans Willem Korsten – Literary Studies F.W.A.Korsten@hum.leidenuniv.nl

Maastricht University: Ben De Bruyn – Literature and Art b.debruyn@maastrichtuniversity.nl and Aagje Swinnen  - Literature and Art a.swinnen@maastrichtuniversity.nl

Université Charles De Gaulle Lille 3: Fiona McIntosh – Littératures comparées fiona.mcintosh-varjabedian@univ-lille3.fr

Cardiff University: Neil Badmington – School of English badmington@cardiff.ac.uk

Topic and theme

As in the previous three successful series, each seminar focuses on the work of one of six eminent international literary scholars who play a leading role in the disciplines of literary theory and literary history and have made important theoretical and conceptual contributions to their respective disciplines and to the historiography of both the central object of study (literary writing) and the disciplinary attempts at writing its history. Each of the scholars central to the seminar are, first and foremost, experts in their disciplines and specialists of a particular literary historical moment (ranging from the early modernity to the twentieth century). We aim for a good mixture of senior and more junior scholars: some of our guests are internationally renowned leading figures (Belsey, Korsten, Schiffman) while others have the potential to rise to that fame (Badmington, Galvez, Marno, Parvini). 


The aim of the seminar is to provide both an in-depth discussion of the past research and work in progress of the particular scholar as well as a reflection on emerging concepts, theories and approaches in the disciplines of literary theory and literary history. In addition to the thematic interests of the invited scholars, we will also draw on the conceptual approach of each individual scholar. In this way, the course is not only of added value to PhD students specialized in the particular discipline or literary historical moment of the invited scholar, but also to any PhD student dealing with literary texts or concepts in his or her research.

The course is divided into six seminars with the international specialists that we have invited. Each seminars consists of two sessions: in a first session the selected texts by the invited speaker will be discussed under the guidance of one of GEMS professorial or postdoctoral staff. These texts are chosen by the invited scholar in consultation with the organisers of the specialist course and will run up to a maximum of 150 pages per seminar (our guests are asked to select five ‘texts’). The texts will be circulated among the participants a few weeks prior to the first session. The goal of this introductory discussion (supervised by one or more of the GEMS-co-ordinators) in the first session is to prepare the participating PhD students for the conversation and discussion with the invited scholar in the second session. Additionally, at the end of this first session each participant is asked to prepare and formulate one major question regarding the research of the invited scholar in relation to the participant’s own PhD research. These questions will be further formulated in writing in the days of the session and will be circulated among the participants before the session with the invited scholar. They will help structure the conversation in the second session.

During this second session, which takes place approximately a week after the first, the invited scholar will give a short introductory presentation on his past, current and envisioned work. This presentation or talk will form the basis for a thorough exchange between the scholar and the participants. During the exchange the participants will have ample of opportunity to pose their prepared questions and discuss further questions that rise up during the conversation. This method of operation allows the participating PhD students not only to develop and deepen their expertise in the research field but also to practice asking and formulating critical questions and participating in scholarly debates. These skills will undoubtedly prove valuable in their research career at scholarly symposia, roundtable discussions and conferences. As the seminars are conducted in English, the specialist course also offers an occasion to practise their language proficiency in ‘academic English’.

Programme  (see also GEMS website http://www.gemsugent.wordpress.com)

Spring term:

  • Session 1: Neema Parvini (University of Surrey) - Theme: The future of historicism – ‘beyond’ the New Historicism

Preparatory session: Thursday, March 22 2018 (9.30-12.30)
Session with our guest: Thursday, March 29, 2018 (9.30-12.30)

  • Session 2: David Marno (University of California, Berkeley) - Theme: early-modern poetry and its relations to religious history – the genealogy of aesthetic criticism

Preparatory session: Tuesday, May 8, 2018 (9.30-12.30)
Session with our guest: Tuesday, May 15, 2018 (9.30-12.30)

  • Session 3: Catherine Belsey (Derby University) / Neil Badmington (Cardiff University) - Theme: the heritage of post-structuralism and the future of literary and cultural studies – what is the value of criticism today?

Preparatory session: Friday, May 25, 2018 (9.30-12.30)
Session with our guests: Friday, June 1, 2018 (9.30-12.30)

Fall term: (dates to be specified)
•    September/October 2018: Zachary Schiffman (Northeastern Illinois University)
Theme: the topic of his book The Birth of the Past: the genealogy of Western concepts and modes of historical thinking - Reading historical anachronism vs. reading 'the past' in early modern Europe
•    Early November: Marisa Galvez (Stanford University)
Theme: the genealogy of poetry before it became ‘modern’
•    December 2018: Frans Willem Korsten  (Leiden University)
Theme: towards a new form of cultural history – specific case: the Dutch Golden Age.

Registration and information

Please send an e-mail to

Registration fee

Free of charge for PhD students of the Doctoral School of Arts, Humanities and Law of UGent.


Maximum 12 participants per session

Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

Presence and active participation.