For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
Literature and the Extended Present

Literature and the Extended Present

This project belongs to the following research constellations:


Globalization and Migration


Thomas Vaessens


Over the last decades, the study of literature has branched off into many directions. Much to its benefit, literary studies has entered into a many-voiced, intense discussion with philosophy, aesthetic theory, cultural sociology, political theory, popular culture studies – to name just a few of the many conversation partners. As a result, literary (theory) scholars of today study a wide variety of cultural phenomena: film, theatre, performance art, visual culture, et cetera. Yet paradoxically, this diversification of literary studies has pushed a number of intriguing, critical questions concerning the role and analysis of literature itself into the background. What is the place of literature in the present? How is it defined, produced, interpreted, and received? Which notions and practices of literature interact and compete in present-day academic and public arenas? What are the modi operandi of contemporary literary culture(s), on national as well as global scales? And why is it that literary art and issues of authorship and commitment continue to play such an important role in the present?

The participants of the research group ‘Literature and the Extended Present’ share an interest in such questions. Their diverse, yet converging activities aim at a reassessment of literature (understood as both the printed or digitized word as well as literary culture and the question of literariness) as a common core concern within the study of contemporary culture. One of the main points of departure is the specific ability of literary texts to establish links between the past, the present and the future. As a practice of cultural memory and identity, literature brings the past of a society and its cultural heritage up to date, while (it) at the same time (reworks) reworking and constructing this heritage in the light of present-day developments such as globalization and cultural diversification. In doing so literature also opens up new vistas on future possibilities. Explicitly or by way of indirection, literary texts project specific versions of the present into the future; they speculate about, anticipate upon and invest in developments yet to happen or never to occur at all. Accordingly, the participants explore the role of literature as a form of cultural work that extends the present-day world into the past, as well as the future.

Methodologically, we will combine the approaches of cultural history and cultural analysis. An important basic principle consists in the critical intra- and intertextual analysis of literature; the results of this analysis are then related to the dynamics of (modern) cultural heritage and globalization. In the broadest sense, the initiated research focuses on the interdiscursive relations between literature and literary phenomena on the one hand, and politics, ethics, economics, sciences, visual culture, popular culture, journalism – et cetera – on the other hand.


Seminars, workshops, symposia and discussion meetings will be hosted by the research group. PhD and RMA seminars will be organized as well. All those interested are welcome to participate. For registration and more information, please mail the coordinator: Prof. dr. Thomas Vaessens (