Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Ernst van Alphen

Professor emeritus Literary Studies

Prof.dr. E.J. van Alphen
+31 71 527 2727

Ernst van Alphen is a professor emeritus of of Literary Studies at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society.

More information about Ernst van Alphen

Prof.dr. Ernst van Alphen's research focuses on modern and post-modern literature - and its relation to visual arts.

Fields of interest

Historische avantgardes
Gender studies
Holocaust studies
Relationships between the Arts


I have been a Professor of Literary Studies at Leiden University since 2000. In my research as well as in my teaching, I am particularly interested in issues that are central in modern and post-modern literature and in the relation between literature and the visual arts. The literary texts and art works on which I focus are usually part of the movements of the historical avant-gardes, modernism, or postmodernism. I have for a number of years had a particular interest in literature and art representing the Holocaust, and I have published several books on this topic. Theoretically, I am still interested in problems related to trauma and memory and their role in literary and artistic representation, but no longer only in the context of the Holocaust. A perspective that is usually part of my research is that of gender studies, especially in relation to masculinity. Before I came to Leiden University, I worked at Utrecht University and the University of Nijmegen; at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam I held the post of Director of Communication and Education. I have also been appointed as Queen Beatrix Professor of Dutch Studies, as well as Professor of Rhetoric at the University of Califormia, Berkeley.

Curriculum vitae


  • PhD: University of Utrecht, January 22, 1988; Supervisors: Prof. Dr M. Bal and Prof. Dr J. Neubauer
  • University of Utrecht 1977-1983, "kandidaats"exam: Dutch linguistics and literature; "doctoraal"exam: Theory of literature
  • Spieringshoek Lyceum, Schiedam 1971-1977, Gymnasium Bêta

Publications (books)


Staging the Archive. Art and Photography in Times of New Media. London 2014, Reaktion Books. (301 pp.)




Art in Mind: The Contribution of Contemporary Images to Thought.  Chicago 2005: University of Chicago Press, (228 pp.)




Schaduw en Spel: Herbeleving, Historisering en Verbeelding van de Holocaust. Rotterdam 2004, NAi publishers, (128 pp.) ( Shadow and Play: Reliving, historicizing and representing the Holocaust




Armando: Vormen van Herinnering. Rotterdam (2000), NAi Uitgevers (240 pp.); English edition: Armando: Shaping Memory. Rotterdam 2000, NAi Publishers (240 pp.)




Caught by History. Holocaust Effects in Contemporary Art, Literature and Theory. Stanford CA 1997, Stanford University Press, (234 pp.)




Op poëtische wijze. Een handleiding voor het lezen van poëzie. Bussum (1996; reprinted 2006), Coutinho. (190 pp.) co-authors: L. Duyvendak, M. Meijer and B. Peperkamp ( In a poetic manner: a manual for reading poetry)




De toekomst der herinnering. Essays over moderne Nederlandse literatuur. Amsterdam, Van Gennep (1993). (240 pp.) ( The Future of Memory. Essays on Modern Dutch Literature)




Francis Bacon and the Loss of Self. London, Reaktion Books (1992; reprinted 1998); Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press (1993). (208 pp.)




Bij wijze van lezen. Verleiding en verzet van Willem Brakmans lezer. Muiderberg, Coutinho (1988), (256 pp.) ( As a Manner of Reading. Seduction and Resistance of Willem Brakman's Reader)




Bang voor schennis? Inleiding in de ideologiekritiek. Utrecht, HES Publishers (1987), (130 pp.) ( Afraid of Violation? Introduction to the Critique of Ideology)


Publications (articles, selection)

-“Visual Archives as Preposterous History”, in Art History, 30, 3, June 2007, 364-82
-“Configurations of Self: Modernism and Distraction”, in Astradur Eysteinsson and Vivian Liska (eds.), Modernism. (Amsterdam 2007: John Benjamins Publishing Company), pp. 339-46
- “Second-Generation Testimony, Transmission of Trauma, and Postmemory”, Poetics Today 27 (2006), 2, pp. 473-88
- “Free Association and Anomic Archiving”, in Els Vanden Meersch, Implants (Gent 2006, MER), pp. 134-49
- “¿Qué Historia, la Historia de Quién, Historia con Qué Propósito?” Nociones de Historia del Arte y Estudios de Cultura Visual”, EV: estudios visiales 3, diciembre 2005, pp.79-98
- “Migrant/Migrating Masculinities”, “Migrant/Migrierende Mänlichkeit”, in: Kathrin Becker (ed.), Masculinities, (Berlin: Neuer Berliner Kunstverein / Frankfurt am Main: Revolver, 2005), pp. 13-33 and pp. 66-91
- “Die Ausstellung als narratives Kunstwerk/Exhibition as Narrative Work of Art,” in Partners. Munich 2003: Haus der Kunst / Köln: Walther König, pp. 143-85
- “Reconcentrations”: Bacons Neuerfindung seiner Vorbilder”, in: W.Seipel, B. Steffen, Ch. Vitali (eds.) Francis Bacon und die Bildtradition. (Milano 2003: Skira/ Viena 2003: Kunsthistorisches Museum )“Reconcentrations: Francis Bacon reinventing his Models,” Francis Bacon. Vienna 2003 : Kunsthistorisches Museum), pp. 57-70
-  “Literature and Art in History”, in: Arcadia: Internationale Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft. Band 38, 2003, Heft 2, pp. 334-338
- “Holocaust Toys: Pedagogy of Remembrance through Play”, in S. Hornstein, L. Levitt L.J. Silberstein (eds.), Impossible Images: Contemporary Art after the Holocaust (New York 2003: New York University Press), pp. 157-178
- “Stylistic Travesties: Philip Akkerman’s Obsessive Portraiture”,  in D. Blostein and P. Kleber (eds.) Mirror or Mask ? Self-representation in the Modern Age. (Berlin 2003: Vistas Verlag), pp. 264 - 76
- “Imagined Homelands: Re-Mapping Cultural Identity”, in: Ginette Vertraete and Tim Cresswell (eds.), Mobilizing Place, Placing Mobility: The Politics of Representation in a Globalized World. (Amsterdam/New York 2002: Rodopi), pp. 53-70

Professor emeritus Literary Studies

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Centre for the Arts in Society
  • Literatuurwetenschap



  • Castrum Perigrini lid onderzoeksraad
  • research council Castrum Perigrini initiating research
This website uses cookies.  More information.