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Literary and Cultural Analysis (Literary Studies)
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Kalliope Bournias

'While studying I found my interests shift from literature toward theory; the Bachelor's in Literary and Cultural Analysis is very much theory-based – I love it!'

FGw / Literary and Cultural Analysis

Why did you choose UvA?

I went to a national+ school in Bali, Indonesia.  I looked at the UK, America and Europe for university education since I was looking for internationally oriented programmes and my Indonesian probably isn’t good enough for university in Indonesia. Within Europe, I found programmes that suited my interests in both the Netherlands and in Germany, and I ended up choosing Literary and Cultural Analysis here in Amsterdam. Literary and Cultural Analysis has a strong background at the UvA, with founding thinkers like Mieke Bal having taught here in the past. It seemed like a great opportunity to learn from within the heart of the discipline. 

Why Literary and Cultural Analysis?

I first looked at this programme because of my love for literature. But what’s great about LCA is that it includes so much more than just literature.  It sounded broad enough to cover all of my interests, and it did! While studying I found my interests shift from literature toward theory; the LCA programme is very much theory-based – I love it!

What does the Cultural Analysis part entail?

To put it simply, the programme basically combines literature, cultural studies and philosophy. It’s very interdisciplinary. The “cultural” part doesn’t mean the culture of a specific population group as you might find in anthropology, but rather culture as in what happens in everyday life: our “cultural objects” include films, TV shows, pop culture, art, literature, events – just about anything you could think of. We learn about theories that provide new ways to approach cultural objects. The great thing is that you have the freedom to apply these theories to whatever kind of objects you are interested in.

Can you share something incredible you’ve picked up during the programme?

The programme doesn’t shy away from engaging in today’s pressing political and social questions. My perspective on my own position in the wider scheme of things has changed drastically. It has involved really growing to understand that we as people are ‘made up of’ other people, societal structures, representations and cultural objects – that we never leave encounters unchanged. We’re not fixed; we are constantly being redefined by everything that we’re reading and writing, looking at, the roles we perform. All those different cultural realms ‘make’ us. These kinds of ideas make you (re)think your place in the world – that’s what’s great about this program. We are exposed to a lot of ways of looking at things. Different philosophical perspectives, different writers, different ways of representing the world. All these different ways force you to see things a little differently: there’s not one world, and not one way of making sense of it.

Is the programme very focused on history?

One of the main things Cultural Analysis stresses is focusing on the present. That doesn’t mean that we neglect everything that has come before today, but it involves thinking of all that in relation to the present. Most of the theory we look at is from the 20th century onward, but there are courses with a more historical orientation. Personally, I really like history, so I’ve taken multiple electives that focus on the subject. The freedom to choose (almost) any elective is awesome. I’m starting to believe that almost anything can fit really well into the wider context of LCA.

You chose to do the honours programme. What motivated this choice?

Studying LCA I realised how much I like theory and how much I like writing and research, which made me consider going into academia. The honours programme is 30 extra credits and you can do 12 of them in a research practicum. That means you could have the opportunity to learn from favourite professors or research groups and get a sneak peek into both the horrors and delights of real-world academia. My experience with this has been so important for what I might do in the future.

Do you have plans to do a Master’s?

I will probably do either the Research Master's in Cultural Analysis or the Comparative Cultural Analysis Master’s at the UvA. It’s a discipline that really suits my way of thinking. I think I will stay in Amsterdam, because it’s a great place!

So you enjoy living in Amsterdam?

I moved here from somewhere very different. Bali and Amsterdam don’t have much in common, except maybe the overwhelming tourism! I expected moving here would be very difficult, but it was unexpectedly easy. The city really opened up to me: I found a place to live, started this programme (which is blowing my mind!), and have found great friends. On my first day here, I got lost in the city. But getting lost meant meeting my boyfriend… fast forward two years, and we live together now! Amsterdam has been a series of good fortunes for me.

In my free time I write poetry and it was so easy to find a community of people who do the same thing. We used to perform at some of the squatted cultural centres with other Dutch poets and they were all very welcoming. Finding a job here is also fairly easy – lots of places (especially in the city centre) are hiring English speaking people.

How is your Dutch by now?

I practice with my Dutch boyfriend and his mother writes children’s books, so I learn through those, too. I haven’t taken any courses at the UvA yet (the UvA offers Dutch courses for credits), but it’s something you can do and I think I might. I think if you put a bit of effort into speaking Dutch, people really appreciate it.

What about the other LCA students?

We’re quite an international group! I think the thing that brings students to LCA is being kind of confused but knowing one thing for sure: we all go crazy for culture. Film, literature, music videos, subcultures – like I said before, just about anything. I think most of us have pretty specific interests. I really like 20th century Russian history, especially the Soviet era. I have peers who are interested in antiquity, the music industry, Shakespeare, and memes. I have a friend who writes essays on Beyoncé all the time! As long as the approach is theoretically informed and clever, we’re really free to write about whatever gets us ticking.

Why should people choose this programme?

It’s a great programme if you want to learn new ways to look at the things you are already interested in. LCA has a lot to offer and gives you space to explore your interests. And if you want a more direct approach to subjects you are interested in, you can of course do a course like Film Studies as an elective.

The teachers of the programme are absolutely amazing – they are hands down one of the best things about LCA! Our faculty is made up of such supportive, smart and genuine people. It’s really a pleasure and if there’s one thing I think has made my experience with LCA so great, it’s the teachers! Absolute legends, all of them.