Representations of Violence in Literature and Other Media

Level - Target audience

Submissions are open to all PhD students, but priority will be given to those affiliated with Ghent University, the University of Antwerp, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, or the University of Liège.


If you have any questions, please write to:

    Other member(s) of the organising & scientific committee

    • Prof. Jeroen Adam (Department of Conflict and Development Studies, Ghent University)
    • Prof. Gert Buelens (Department of Literary Studies, Ghent University)
    • Prof. Stef Craps (Department of Literary Studies, Ghent University)
    • Prof. Vivian Liska (Department of Literature, University of Antwerp)
    • Prof. Delphine Munos (Department of Literary Studies, Ghent University / Department of Modern Languages, University of Liège)
    • Prof. Arvi Sepp (Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
    • Dr Christina Bezari (Department of Literary Studies, Ghent University)
    • Dr Cedric Van Dijck (Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
    • Mary Ann Manahan (Department of Conflict and Development Studies, Ghent University)
    • Liselotte Van der Gucht (Department of Literary Studies, Ghent University)
    • Eva Van Hoey (Department of Literary Studies, Ghent University)

    VUB onderzoeksgroep SC Representations of Violence in Literature


    This specialist course aims to reflect critically on the concept of violence and provide insight into its literary and media representations. Participants are invited to study different forms of violence, including war and armed conflict, ecological crisis, gender violence and sexual abuse, institutional violence and resulting collective trauma. This two-day intensive course aims to help young scholars explore, define, and draw inspiration from approaches in different fields of study researching violence.


    The forms, representations, and long-term effects of violence are complex and far-reaching. Scholars have defined violence as an “intentional use of physical force” (Wolfgang 1967: 316), “an extreme form of aggression” (Bushman 2017: 185), and “a power relationship aimed at subjecting [...] another person” (Muchembled 2012: 7). Others have focused on the concept of structural or systemic violence, highlighting “socio-economic disparities,” “structurally conditioned poverty,” and “the deprivation of human rights” as the core mechanisms used by repressive regimes (Galtung 1969). More recently, scholars have attempted to redefine the concept of violence by paying attention to the “calamitous repercussions” and “relative invisibility” of “slow violence” (Nixon 2011: 2), emphasizing its insidious nature and disastrous impact on the economy of poorer nations (Kressner, Mutis, and Pettinaroli 2019; El 2020; O’Lear 2021). By bringing together an array of disciplinary approaches, they have opened the way for a better understanding of violence, whether it is direct and immediate or indirect and gradual.

    This doctoral course aims to reflect critically on the concept of violence and provide insight into its literary and media representations. Participants are invited to explore different forms of violence and the ways they are portrayed in literature and other media, such as newspapers, magazines, television, radio, film, social media, and other digital media. Experts will shed light on the historical, socio-cultural, and political aspects of violence and outline methods for understanding representations of violence in local and global contexts. The course is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing on literary studies, critical theory, political science, environmental studies, gender studies, memory studies, and other fields and disciplines. Participants will be given the opportunity to present their work and receive feedback from local and international experts.

    Possible topics for paper proposals include, but are not limited to:

    • War and armed conflict in the 20th and 21st centuries
    • Forced displacement, migration, and exile
    • The climate and ecological crisis and its effects
    • Gender violence (sexual harassment and intimidation, sexual abuse, domestic violence, femicide, forced prostitution, female genital mutilation, violence against the LGBTQ community, etc.)
    • Institutional and systemic violence (criminalization of abortion, police brutality, censure, racial violence, ethnic cleansing, antisemitism, political discrimination, etc.)
    • Violence, memory, and trauma (physical and/or psychological abuse, collective trauma, PTSD and complex PTSD, etc.)


    The objective of the course is to examine the ways in which violence is portrayed in literature and other media, such as television, radio, social media, digital media, and print media. The course is divided into four parts. Each section elaborates on a specific form of violence and is chaired by an expert in the field—Pavan Malreddy, Jenny Wüstenberg, Esther Marijnen, and Jordana Blejmar—covering subjects like slow memory related to slow violence, politics of memory shaping landscapes in the aftermath of violence, narco and gender violence, and political violence.

    The intensive course aims (1) to stimulate reflection on how to assess past and current-day representations of violence from a broader, interdisciplinary perspective; (2) to help doctoral students understand and apply various methodological approaches to and terminologies of violence.

    After completion of the course, PhD students

    1. will have gained insight into the different dynamics shaping forms of violence; 

    2. will have gained knowledge of a number of theories of and different approaches to the study of violence, and the ability to use these theories and approaches for the analysis of literature and other media;

    3. will be able to use methodological concepts on violence fast and slow, conflict, etc. adequately; 

    4. will be able to instigate scientific discussion through presentations and pitches; 

    5. will have broadened their network and enhanced their networking skills.

    Dates and venue

    4-5 May 2023

    Het Rustpunt, Burgstraat 116, 9000 Gent


    Click here for the tentative programme.

    Registration fee

    Free of charge for members of the Doctoral Schools (lunch and coffee/tea included) 


    If you wish to be considered for one of the 16 places available, please send a 300-word abstract for a 10-minute paper (including title, name, and institutional affiliation), a description of your doctoral research project (one paragraph), and a 150-word bio as a single Word or PDF document to by 1 February 2023.

    • More information: See Call for Papers
    • Notification of acceptance: 15 February 2023.
    • Deadline for submission of paper drafts: 15 April 2023.

    Teaching methods

    We provide an intensive, interactive learning programme in which we stimulate doctoral researchers to develop their critical attitude and urge them to actively participate in the discussions.

    - Students attend specialist lectures by experts from different disciplines and have the opportunity to ask questions.

    - Students present their own research by means of a short paper and presentation.

    - Students participate in a reading session, where theoretical texts are actively discussed.

    Number of participants


    Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

    - 100% attendance of the two-day event;

    - active participation in the form of one work-in-progress presentation (ca. 10 minutes)

    - a short research statement (2000 words) which the students should submit three weeks in advance (in order to allow the experts time for detailed feedback).