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Course content

What is the 'Master of Western Literature' all about?

The Master of Western Literature is a unique initial master's programme aimed at an in-depth, intercultural and comparative study of literature in different Western traditions and epochs. As one of the world's oldest universities, located in a multi-lingual society and at the heart of Europe, KU Leuven is a unique location for a programme that focuses on the dynamic interactions between various literatures, languages, and cultures, as well as on intercultural and international aspects of literature.

This master's programme stands out both nationally and internationally for its advanced degree of specialisation in literary studies and its unique intercultural and multilingual perspective.

Specialists in various national literatures and in literary theory collaborate to ensure the high level and quality of the courses. The programme's broad spectrum of national literatures allows you to combine these according to your own interests and thus to deepen your knowledge, à la carte. At the same time, this advanced level of specialisation is combined with a critical, theoretical and broadly comparative perspective. Finally, the concept of 'Western' literatures is thoroughly examined and questioned against the background of more general social, political, and cultural perspectives, both from historical and contemporary points of view.

This is an initial master's programme and can be followed on a full-time or part-time basis.


The programme does not take for granted the key terms in its title: 'Western' and 'literature.' Rather, it aims to investigate the development of literature, literary systems, and traditions in the West and to address the challenges that these phenomena meet with in our contemporary globalised society.

Notions like the canon, tradition, literary genre, and poetics are critically examined and placed within relevant historical contexts. They are studied in relation to the general concepts that determine them, such as civilization, culture, identity, and alterity. The idea of 'Western' literature is also scrutinized from an ideological perspective: what is the relation between literature, nation, language and territory and how has this relation changed in a context of decolonization, globalization, and changing relations between East and West? Within this general theoretical and comparative perspective, the 'building blocks' of Western literature - the different linguistic or national literary traditions - are not neglected and a wide range of elective courses offer ample opportunities for studying these literatures in more detail.


  • The student can make a critical analysis of a literary text and situate it in the broader cultural-historical context of Western literature.
  • The student can develop a scholarly and critical interpretation of literary texts and other cultural phenomena and can communicate this interpretation in both written and oral form for both a scholarly and a general audience.
  • The student has an informed understanding of the specific status of literature as a linguistic system that interacts with broader social and cultural contexts.
  • The student is familiar with the diverse ways in which Western literature has been an object of study, both from a historical and a contemporary perspective. The student is familiar with historical and current engagements with the following questions: (a) what is Western literature?, (b) how has the idea of Western literature been conceptualized and problematized, (c) how does Western literature interact with its contexts?, and (d) how do different literary traditions interact within the larger framework of Western literature?
  • The student is familiar with new methods and approaches within literary studies, cultural studies and literary theory. The student can critically assess these methods and approaches and apply them in a specific research context.
  • The student understands the ways in which different humanities and social science disciplines influence literary studies. The student can employ insights from these disciplines in his or her own research.
  • The student can formulate a research question and gather the primary and secondary material necessary for the research. The student can conceptualize, structure and compose a MA thesis.
  • The student can communicate research results in both oral and written form for an academic audience.
  • The student can communicate research results to non-specialized audiences.
  • The student follows the deontological and ethical codes of scientific research in his or her research.
  • The student has an insight in diversity and intercultural interaction and can use this insight to participate in contemporary social and cultural debates.
  • The student develops a lasting interest in Western literature and culture.
  • The student develops a critical literacy that he or she can deploy in different professional and social contexts.
  • The student who takes language-specific modules has an advanced knowledge of the literary historical traditions in that language and can connect these to broader developments within the Western literary tradition.
  • The student who takes language-specific modules that are taught in a foreign language has a C2 (or at the very least a C1) proficiency level for understanding (listening and reading), speaking (production and interaction) and writing. This holds especially for students who write their MA thesis in a foreign language.

Career perspectives

As a graduate of the Master of Western Literature programme, you will have acquired a wide range of skills that you will be able to use in a large number of professional contexts. Your strengths will mainly be your ability to reflect on complex cultural phenomena, your insight into and facility with plurilingualism and interculturality, and your ability to bring those insights across in the media and/or in educational contexts.

Through your advanced insight in intercultural relations, you will be exceptionally well placed to work in an international context (e.g., embassies, European institutions, translating services, and international companies). In addition, you will have acquired an extensive knowledge of literature and the skills for reporting on it. The publishing world, the media, and journalism will therefore offer more possibilities.

After taking a teacher training programme, you will also be able to start teaching.

Visit the Western Literature MA page on the KU Leuven website for more details!





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