Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Frans Willem Korsten

Professor Literature, Culture and Law

Prof.dr. F.W.A. Korsten
+31 71 527 2196

Frans Willem Korsten is a Professor Literature, Culture and Law at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society.

More information about Frans Willem Korsten

Fields of interest

  • Rhetoric (classical and modern)
  • Literature and Politics
  • Politico-cultural organization of Europe
  • Dutch Baroque
  • Literature and Law
  • Theatricality and Dramatization
  • Humanities approach to urbanism


Initially, my research focused on ideology criticism, rhetoric and politics. After completing my PhD thesis, in which I combined narratology with argumentation theory in an analysis of cultural critical texts, I wrote a new introduction to literary studies: Lessons in Literature, in which I combined a selection of historical periods in European literature with twelve different approaches to literature and with short analytical explorations. This book helped me to define my interest in major historical and cultural lines, nodes and recurring problems in the politico-cultural organization of Europe. One such a problem was (and is) the conceptualization of sovereignty, that I traced in plays by the seventeenth century baroque playwright Joost van den Vondel. This part of my research resulted in Vondel belicht: voorstellingen van soevereiniteit (Hilversum: Verloren, 2006). It was thoroughly rewritten in English: Sovereignty as inviolability: Vondel;s Theatrical Explorations in the Dutch republic (Hilversum: Verloren, 2009). Together with Jan Bloemendal I was happy to realize a successful open access, edited volume: Joost van den Vondel: Dutch Playwright in the Golden Age (Leiden: Brill, 2012). The research into the baroque found a concluding study in A Dutch Republican Baroque: Theatricality, Dramatization, Moment and Event (Amsterdam: AUP, 2017). Meanwhile, back in 2007, I started a new line of research, with All Inclusive: The poetic and capitalism. That line of research developed into an interest in the field of literature and law. In this context I published Art as an Interface of Law and Justice: Affirmation, Disturbance, Disruption (Oxford: Hart, 2021). The pivotal points of connection between these forms of research are: the Dutch Republic as a proto-capitalist society; Spinoza and his distinction between power and the potential, on the basis of which he was reread in radical Italian political theories from the seventies and eighties, and by Gilles Deleuze and Rosi Braidotti; the issue of theatricality and dramatization in relation to the political and law; the relations between literature, art, sovereignty and justice; the conceptualization of history in relation to politics.  

Currently I finished a co-authored monograph together with Inger Leemans, Kornee van der Haven and Karel Vanhaesebrouck that is the end result of an NWO-FWO project on representations of violence in the 17t century Baroque: Imagineering Violence: Affective Economies in the Dutch Republic (Cambridge UP Elements series, 2023). I am happy to be part of a an NWO-project that studies contemporary politics in its relation to play (together with Sybille Lammes, Frank Chouraqui, Alex Gekker, Bram Ieven and Sara Polak). Two other projects are related to new courses I developed for new programs of Leiden University in The Hague. The course for International Studies led to a book by Amsterdam University Press: Cultural Interactions: Conflict and Cooperation (2022). The second project was developed for the program of Urban Studies: ‘Imagining the City: Imaginations-Cancellations’. This is a book in progress, written together with Anthony T. Albright, to be published in 2023-2024. 

What happened in the process

  • At Utrecht University I first studied Dutch Arts and Letters, and then Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, from 1977 to 1984.
  • I wrote my PhD thesis, The Wisdom Brokers: Narrative's Interaction with Arguments in Cultural Critical Texts, at the University of Amsterdam, with Mieke Bal and Frans van Eemeren as supervisors.
  • Since 2007 I hold the chair by special appointment in ‘Literature and Society’ at the Erasmus University Rotterdam – with the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication up until 2020, with the Erasmus School of Philosophy since then. Since January 2023 I am professor ‘Literature, Culture, and Law’ in Leiden.

Committees and other panels

  • I worked for the Dutch national Council for Culture as chairman for the section Letters, and was a member of the Rotterdam Council for Culture.  
  • I was several times a member of assessment committees for the Norwegian Research Council and for The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, NWO. 
  • I was a member of an editorial board (Boom-The Hague Publishers) that was concerned with a new series of introductions into the philosophy of science, for which I edited four volumes.  
  • For a couple of years I was member of the editorial board of the open access Journal of Dutch Literature (AUP). 
  • I was a member of the Supervisory Board of art exhibition and post-academic research center BAK in Utrecht, between 2017 and December 2022. (https://www.bakonline.org/
  • Since 2001, I am a member of is the Annie Romein-Verschoor committee that organizes a Leiden University lecture each year on International Women’s day (https://evenementen.leidenuniv.nl/lezingen/romein-verschoorlezing/


  • I have been working at the department of Film and Literary Studies of Leiden University since 1998; since 2018 I came to be connected rather to the International Studies and Urban Studies programs in The Hague. 
  • From 2013 to 2020 I worked for the Master of Education in Arts program of the Piet Zwart Institute (the Ma program of the Willem de Kooning Academy). 
  • With colleagues dr Claudia Bouteligier, dr. Tessa de Zeeuw and dr. Yasco Horsman, we developed a minor in The Hague called ‘Questions of Justice in Law, Literature and the Arts’ which is either a 30 ects or15 ects minor that started in the fall of 2022. 


  • From January 2010 to September 2013, I was Director of Education of LUCAS, the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society.


  • I was responsible for the NWO internationalization program Post/autonomia and precarity – the global heritage (2010-2014), together with Monica Jansen (UU) and Joost de Bloois (UvA) 
  • With Kornee van der Haven, Inger Leemans, Karel Vanhaesebrouck, we got ITEMP funded by NWO/FWO: Imagineering Techniques in the Early Modern Period (2015-2019); a project that allowed for two finished PhD projects. 
  • I was happy to support and participate in the Hera funded project Night Spaces: Migration, Culture and Integration in Europe (NITE), under supervision of Sara Brandellero and in cooperation with Kamila Krakowska. The program ran from 2019 to 2022, with one PhD project. 
  • Under the supervision of Sybille Lammes and together with Frank Chouraqui, Alex Gekker, Bram Ieven and Sara Polak we started out on an NWO-project entitled Play and Politics, from 2021 to 2025, with one PhD project. 


  • At the moment, I work together with artists Edward Clydesdale Thomson and Sjoerd Westbroek, make music with my old friends from the band Zatikmaarinhoogcatharijne (https://www.zatikmaarinhoogcatharijne.nl/), and am learning to do some woodwork. Professionally speaking, I am focusing on teaching, reading, writing, and on the work of my PhD students. I still like travelling, but listening to, or living with, the ecological environment can well be done within a restricted area. I consider giving lectures to be an activity that can be successful sometimes, though I’d rather talk with people instead of ‘to’. 

Finished PhD's 

As co-promotor

  • June 2001, Leiden: Aldin Kaizilege Mutembei (supervisor prof. dr. Mineke Schipper), Poetry and AIDS in Tanzania : changing metaphors and metonymies in Haya oral traditions

As supervisor

  1. Helmer Helmers, cum laude (co-promotor: dr. Ton Hoenselaars), The Royalist Republic : literature, politics and religion in the Anglo-Dutch public sphere, 1639-1660; June 2011, Leiden 
  2. Tammy Lynn Castelein (together with prof. dr. Hent de Vries), No More Heroes: Heidegger Between the Wars; May 2012, Amsterdam 
  3. Marie-Anne Coebergh van der Marck (co-promotor Janneke Lam), In de ban van het incestverbod: analyse van een historische omslag in de verbeelding van erotiek tussen broer en zuster; December 2012, Leiden 
  4. Aamir Aziz (co promotor dr. Yasco Horsman) Theatre as Truth Practice: Arthur Miller’s The Crucible – a Play Waiting for the Occasion; December 2014, Leiden 
  5. Adam Hall, (with prof. dr. Jürgen Pieters and prof. dr. Sandro Jung), Renaissance Metonymy and Shakespeare’s Hamlet; December 2014, Gent 
  6. Berrie Vugts (co-promotor dr. Yasco Horsman), The Case against Animal Rights: A Literary Intervention; March 2015, Leiden 
  7. Marrigje Paijmans (with prof. dr. Lia van Gemert and co-promotor dr. Frans Blom – UvA), Dichter bij de waarheid: Parrhesia en dramatisering in het werk van Joost van den Vondel; November 2015, Amsterdam 
  8. Sara Polak (with prof. dr. Peter Liebregts), “This is Roosevelt’s world”: FDR as a Cultural Icon in American Memory; December 2015, Leiden 
  9. Cui Chen (co-promotor: dr. Maria Boletsi), The Savage as Living Ghost: Representations of Native Americans and Scholarly Failures to Dismantle the Notion of the Savage; March 2017, Leiden 
  10. Frank van Doeselaar (with prof. dr. Yra van Dijk), Bewegend lezen: Voorstel tot een cinematografische leeshouding; September 2017, Leiden 
  11. Bart Vieveen, Leiden (co-promotor dr. Peter Verstraten), Kortsluiting in het symbolische: Hamlet, Katadreuffe en Van Egters verkennen de grenzen van het bedreigde Vader-land; May 2019, Leiden 
  12. Mark O’Donnell (co-promotores dr. Jan-Frans van Dijkhuizen and dr. Madeleine Kasten), ‘A glimmering light’: Reading, Writing, Mysticism and Presence in the Religious Verse of John Donne; November 2019, Leiden 
  13. Riccardo Giacconi, Leiden (PhDarts; with prof. dr. Janneke Wesseling & co-promotor dr. Yasco Horsman) The Variational Mode: Three cases about documents, artworks and animation; December 2019, Leiden 
  14. Michel van Duijnen (with prof. dr. Inger Leemans, VU), A VIOLENT IMAGINATION: Printed images of violence in the Dutch Republic, 1650-1700; December 2019, Amsterdam 
  15. Kai-wen Chiu (with prof. dr. Marcel Cobussen and co-promotor dr. Yasco Horsman), Phónè and the Political Potential of Metal Music: A Scholarly Intervention; May 20, 2020, Leiden 
  16. Joost Haan (with prof. dr. Michel Ferrari), Migraine as Text - Text as Migraine: Diagnosis and Literature; October 22, 2020 Leiden 
  17. Gerlov van Engelenhoven, summa cum laude (with prof. dr. Greta Olson, Giessen), “Whereof one cannot speak…”: Deceptive voices and agentive silences in the articulation of identities in the Moluccan postcolonial migrant community in the Netherlands; December 11, 2020, Justus Liebig Universität, Giessen 
  18. Tessa de Zeeuw (co-promotor dr. Yasco Horsman), Postdramatic Legal Theatres: Space, Body, Media and Genre; June 2, 2021, Leiden. 
  19. Esther Edelmann (co-promotor dr. Nanne Temmer), Inverted Worlds and Belated Baroques; May 18, 2021, Leiden.
  20. Jack Segbars, (PhDarts, with prof. dr. Janneke Wesseling and co-promotor Joost de Bloois), The Emergent Artistic Object in the Postconceptual  Condition; November 18, 2021, Leiden.
  21. Seger Kersbergen (co-promotors: dr Sara Brandellero and dr. Kamila Krakowska), Nightlife in the Cabo Verdean Diaspora: The Case of Rotterdam City; February 16, 2023, Leiden.
  22. Tine Nederveen (co-promotor: dr. Liesbeth Minnaard), Taalbenadering en taalhouding in werk van Jacob Israël de Haan: zuiverheid, gekunsteldheid, dubbelzinnigheid, expressiviteit; April 4, 2023, Leiden.

To the reading committee

  1. Anna Krýsová (co-promotor dr Esther Op de Beek), Beyond postmodernism: oscillation, affect and reparative reading in contemporary Dutch literature - to the reading committee.
  2. Ana Paula Cordoza de Souza (co-promotor dr. Sara Brandellero), Pedagogy in Literary Postcards: João do Rio in São Paulo (1905-1915) – to the Reading committee

Almost finished

  1. Zeynep Anli (co-promotor Liesbeth Minnaard) on the relation between 20th century feminism and utopian or dystopian fiction 
  2. Thomas Bragdon (co-promotor dr. Wout Cornelisse – Radboud University) on the cultural representation of political rights of refugees in the context of the work of Hannah Arendt 
  3. Robin Oomkes (co-promotor Sara Polak) on the cultural implications of a Fremdkörper statue of Fridjof in Norway, installed by emperor Wilhelm II 

PhD work in progress

  1. Anthony T. Albright (co-promotor dr. Yasco Horsman), ‘A Media Archeology of the High-Touch Surface (1800–Present)’ 
  2. Marijn van Dijk (with prof. Nadine Akkermans), on modes of address and tone in Baroque texts, images, and glass decorations.
  3. Bram Eenink (together with dr. Sara Polak), ‘It Will Happen Here: Hope and Despair in Second American Civil War Fiction’ 
  4. Aida Gholami (together with Sara Polak) on the use of memes in the context of the Iranian uprising in 2022-2023.
  5. Amarantha Goes (co-promotor Robin van den Akker) on the representation of pregnancy on the interstice of the carrying subject and the subject being carried.
  6. Nike van Helden (co-promotor dr. Nanne Temmer) on censorship and self-censorship in Cuban literature since the sixties 
  7. Andries Hiskes (co-promotor dr. Jules Sturm), ‘Against staring: Disability and its affective affordances – deformity, decay, disruption, distortion’ 
  8. Maaike Hommes (with prof. dr. Greta Olson, Univ. Giessen), Nervous Routes: Tracing Explicability Between Medical Knowledge and Bodily Experience.   
  9. Çağlar Köseoğlu (co-promotor Robin van den Akker, EUR), on the pedagogic requirements for a decolonized academic curriculum. 
  10. Marcos Neto de Cordova (co-promotores dr. Yasco Horsman and dr. Sara Brandellero), ‘A (Dis)oriented Aesthetics: A Schizoanalysis of the Intersection of Gender, Race and Sexuality in Brazilian Art, Culture and Literature since the 1990s’ 
  11. Angel Perazzetta (co-promotor dr. Daný van Dam), ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Moral Dimensions of Victorian Trash Between Value, Values and Worth’ 
  12. Mitchell van Vuuren (together with prof. dr. Minna Valjakka), ‘Understanding digital forms of ideological suture through the influence of the People’s Republic of China on Video-on-Demand platform users’ 

PhD committees

Member of more than fifty promotion committees in the last 10 years at the Universities of Leiden, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; Gent, Giessen, Louvain la Neuve 


  • Courses on all levels of the BA in the Faculty of Humanities Leiden, including the core curriculum ‘Introduction Literary Studies’ (150-250 students); core course ‘Cultural Interactions’ with International Studies (500 students, The Hague); core course ‘Imagining the city’ with Urban Studies (60 students, The Hague);  
  • BA course for international students ‘Literature, art and capitalism’ (25 students, ESHCC, Rotterdam) 
  • Courses at the Erasmus University College on ‘Literature and Politics’ and ‘Analyzing Contemporary Literature’ 
  • courses on MA-level and in Research Master, on literature/art and justice; on cultural history and cultural studies; on philosophical approaches to art and literature; on didactic art and literature; on baroque theatricality; on culture, representation and mediation. 
  • winter- and summer schools on art/literature and justice 
  • Organizer of Honours College for the Leiden University Institute for Cultural Disciplines (2008-2013) 

Conferences, symposiums, seminars

  • Together with dr. Bram Ieven (UU): Waiting for the Political Moment (Rotterdam, June 2010) conference website
  • Together with dr. Joost de Bloois (UvA) and dr. Monica Jansen (UU): ‘What is post/autonomia today?’; first conference in a set of three; followed by two conferences in the years 2012-2013 organized by international partners: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ann Arbor (Michigan), and Paris Nanterre. 
  • Together with Yasco Horsman (UL); Legal bodies: Corpus /Persona /Communitas (Leiden, May 2014); https://hum.leiden.edu/lucas/news-events/legal-bodies-corpus-persona-communitas.html 
  • Together with Joost de Bloois, symposium ‘Decoloniality, Modernity and the Anthropological Perspective’, June 25, 2015, Amsterdam Center for Globalization Studies 
  • Together with prof. dr. Jeanne Gaakeer, conference Issues of fact, Rotterdam, September  2015 

Prizes, awards

  • Three time nominee for best teacher of the University of Leiden
  • Best supervisor of the Netherlands 2015
F.W. Korsten (2022), Cultural Interactions: Conflict and Cooperation

Professor Literature, Culture and Law

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

Work address

Arsenaalstraat 1
2311 CT Leiden
Room number A1.40




  • NWO Veni-commissie
This website uses cookies.  More information.