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Maria Boletsi

Associate professor

Prof.dr. M. Boletsi
+31 71 527 2357

Maria Boletsi is Associate Professor at the Film and Literary Studies Department of Leiden University.

More information about Maria Boletsi

Curriculum vitae

Maria Boletsi is Associate Professor at the Film and Literary Studies Department of Leiden University and (since 2018) Endowed Professor of Modern Greek Studies at the University of Amsterdam, where she holds the Marilena Laskaridis Chair.

She received her Ph.D. with honors from Leiden University (Barbarism, Otherwise 2010) and holds cum laude degrees in Cultural Analysis (research MA, University of Amsterdam), Comparative Literature (BA, University of Amsterdam), and in Classics and Modern Greek Literature (BA, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki).

She has been a research fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS theme-group fellowship, 2022), DFG Mercator fellow at Bonn University (2019), Stanley Seeger Research fellow at Princeton University (2016), visiting scholar at Geneva University (2016) and Columbia University (2008-2009), and a participant in the Cornell School of Criticism and Theory (2006). She is a member of the editorial / advisory boards of the Journal of Modern Greek Studies, the Journal of Greek Media and Culture, and the book series Thamyris/Intersecting by Brill and Greek-Modern Intersections by Michigan UP. She is also Chair of the Advisory Board of the Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies (since 2019) and member of the Advisory Board of the Dutch Research Council (NWO; Domain Social Sciences and Humanities; since 2021). At LUCAS, she has been co-leading the Modern & Contemporary Studies Research Cluster with Sara Polak since 2020.

Maria’s research is situated in comparative literature, literary and cultural theory, conceptual history, Modern Greek literature and culture, English, Dutch, and postcolonial literature. In her work, she tries to bring literature, art, and other forms of cultural expression to bear on urgent societal questions (post-9/11 processes of othering, debates on terrorism, intersecting crises, post-truth) and to situate the study of local cases in global debates and transnational frameworks. Her projects are usually structured around concepts (e.g., barbarism, crisis, futurity, spectrality, the ‘weird’), which serve as flexible methodological tools for interdisciplinary research: concepts shift across periods, media, and cultures, shape experiences of the past, present, and future, and can shed light on complex sociocultural developments. In her current research, she proposes the term ‘weird turn’ to look at contemporary mobilizations of the concept of the weird in fiction, ecology, protest cultures, and other domains (see “Weird Futures” below). Since 2014, she has also been working on the concept of crisis, scrutinizing contemporary crisis rhetoric in Greece, Europe, and the Mediterranean, as well as alternative ‘grammars’ and imaginaries emerging from recent crisis-scapes. In another long-term project, which started from her PhD dissertation and evolved into a collaborative project (completed in 2022), she explored the workings of the concept of barbarism in cultural theory, literature, and public rhetoric in modernity, especially since 1989. The work of the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy has also been a constant reference point in her work since 2005. She recently completed a monograph on the ‘spectral’ in Cavafy’s poetics and his poetry’s contemporary afterlives (Specters of Cavafy; forthcoming 2023).

For her research projects and key publications, see below or visit her academia.edu page: https://leidenuniv.academia.edu/MariaBoletsi

Maria has been teaching at LUCAS since 2010, mainly in the BA Film- en Literatuurwetenschap (Film and Literary Studies), the MA Media Studies (track: Cultural Analysis: Literature and Theory) and the Research MA Literary Studies. Her courses cover a wide range of topics in modern and contemporary literature and culture, literary and cultural theory, interculturality and conceptual history. Most of the MA courses she has designed and (co-)taught are research-based (e.g. Conceptual History as a Task for Comparative Literature: Barbarism; Literature, Art, and the Political after 9/11; Crisis, Literature, and the Contemporary). From September 2023, she will be program director of the Research MA “Arts, Literature, and Media.”

Fields and topics of interest

  • Literary, cultural, and political theory
  • Modern Greek literature and culture
  • English and Dutch literature
  • History of Concepts
  • Futurity, utopianism, future imaginaries
  • Intersections of literature, art, and politics
  • Crisis narratives


a. Weird Futures

In my latest research project, I propose the term weird turn to explore a recent trend to harness speculative fiction, non-positivist epistemologies, and defamiliarizing representational modes in domains such as science, ecology, philosophy, culture, economy, and art, in response to interconnected crises and radical uncertainty about the future. Although in the 20th century the weird was mainly used for a marginalized fictional genre, the concept gained valence in the 21st century owing to “New Weird” writers and the canonization of “Old Weird” writers like H.P. Lovecraft, and has recently veered towards many domains beyond literature (‘weird science,’ ‘global weirding,’ ‘weird realism,’ ‘weird economies,’ ‘weird twitter’ etc.). The weird turn involves practices that stress the strangeness of current realities and experiment with alternative modes of framing an ungraspable present and uncertain future, when the language of reason and data falls short of addressing the disorienting realities of enduring crises: environmental breakdown, the pandemic, the energy crisis, or social and economic collapse. The project explores the controversial aspects the weird turn, but also its emancipatory potentialities for imagining desirable, better futures.

I am pursuing this project both individually and collaboratively. In a collaborative setting, the project advanced through the NIAS theme-group fellowship (2022) on the project “The Politics of (De)familiarization: The Common and the Strange in Contemporary Europe.” With Dr. Florian Lippert and Dr. Dimitris Soudias, we organized an expert workshop and are editing a special issue for Cultural Studies on the topic “New Normals, New Weirds.”

b. Grammars of Crisis and Alternative Imaginaries

Since 2014, I have been studying contemporary crisis rhetoric in different contexts, with an emphasis on the Greek debt crisis (2009-2018). Proposing grammatical categories as conceptual tools, in this project I explore the normative operations of ‘grammars of crisis’ that impose restrictive diagnoses of the present, alongside the potential of grammatical categories for envisioning alternative imaginaries. I am particularly interested in mobilizations of the middle voice in literature, street art, and protest cultures. As a grammatical category in which the subject remains inside the action, the middle voice has disappeared in modern languages, yet middle voice constructions are still functional in many languages. The middle voice has also been conceptualized as a mode that unsettles dualisms and creates indeterminacy between e.g., subject and object. Can the middle voice offer alternatives to the dominant distinction between active and passive subjects in crisis-rhetoric? Can it articulate alternative conceptions of subjectivity, agency, and responsibility to those propagated by the neoliberal governmentality of crisis today?

I have been working on this project individually and collaboratively, through various research groups and networks, e.g., LUCAS network “Crisis and Critique”; ASCA research group “Crisis, Critique and Futurity”; OSL Research group “Crisis and Critique: Rethinking Europe and the Global South”; Cultural Analysis network “Greek Studies Now.” The project output includes several workshops, conferences, and events, 7 articles and book chapters, and 2 co-edited volumes: From Crisis to Critique: Languages of Resistance, Transformation, and Futurity in Mediterranean Crisis-Scapes (Palgrave 2020) & (Un)timely Crises: Chronotopes and Critique  (Palgrave 2021) (see “Key publications” below).

c. European History of Barbarism

In 2013, I received an NWO Internationalisation grant for the project “Barbarian: History of a Fundamental European Concept from the 18th Century to the Present” (2013-2016). This collaborative project focused on the modern European history of the ‘barbarian,’ particularly through its manifestations in literature. Responding to the contemporary popularity of the term ‘barbarism’ in Western public rhetoric and the far-reaching implications of its uses, the project contributes to a critical and historically grounded understanding of this concept’s past and contemporary uses, and foregrounds its foundational role in modern European histories and identities.

The project sprang from a collaboration among scholars from Leiden University, the University of Geneva, Bonn University, Fribourg University, and (since 2017) Oxford University and the University of Amsterdam. The project’s first part was funded by the NWO (PI: Maria Boletsi) and the SNF (Swiss National Science Foundation; PI: Markus Winkler). The project was completed in 2022. Its main output is the 2-volume co-authored monograph Barbarian: Explorations of a Western Concept in Theory, Literature, and the Arts: Volume I focuses on barbarism from the 18th to the early 20th century (Metzler 2018) and Volume II on the 20th and 21st centuries (in press; Metzler 2023).

Go here for more information.

d. Specters of Cavafy

This project, which resulted in my new monograph (Michigan UP, forthcoming 2023), emerged from my long-term preoccupation with the Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy (1863-1933), the best-known modern Greek poet and an important figure in modernism and world literature. Drawing from recent theorizations of the ‘specter’ as a conceptual metaphor in cultural theory, I develop spectrality as a theoretical and analytical lens for revisiting Cavafy’s poetry and its bearing on our present. The monograph brings together theories of spectrality, performativity, irony, and affect, in order to trace the workings of a) the spectral as a central metaphor in Cavafy’s idiosyncratic modernist poetics and b) his poetry’s ‘afterlives’ in contemporary settings: in the Western cultural and political imaginary since 1989 and in Greece today.

Key publications



  • Specters of Cavafy. Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press (forthcoming 2023)
  • (co-authored) Markus Winkler and Maria Boletsi, with Jens Herlth, Laura Lonsdale, Christian Moser et al. Barbarian: Explorations of a Western Concept in Theory, Literature and the Arts. Vol. 2: The Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler (in press; forthcoming 2023).
  • (co-authored) Markus Winkler, with Maria Boletsi, Jens Herlth, Christian Moser, Julian Reidy and Melanie Rohner. Barbarian: Explorations of a Western Concept in Theory, Literature and the Arts. Vol. 1: From the Enlightenment to the Turn of the Twentieth Century. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 2018.

Reviewed by: Leire Urricelqui, Arcadia 54 (2), 2019: 289–293.

  • (co-authored) Maria Boletsi, Sarah de Mul, Isabel Hoving, and Liesbeth Minnaard. De lichtheid van literatuur: Engagement in de multiculturele samenleving [The Lightness of Literature: Engagement in the Multicultural Society]. Leuven: Acco, 2015.

Reviewed by: Sander Bax, Spiegel der Letteren 58 (3), 2016: 427-431.

  • Barbarism and Its Discontents. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013.

Reviewed by:

  • Susan J. Jarratt in Comparative Literature Studies 52 (3), 2015.
  • Lary May in Modern Greek Studies Yearbook 28/29, 2012/2013.

Edited Volumes

  • (Un)timely Crises: Chronotopes and Critique. Co-edited with Natashe Lemos-Dekker, Kasia Mika, Ksenia Robbe. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.
  • Languages of Resistance, Transformation, and Futurity in Mediterranean Crisis-Scapes: From Crisis to Critique. Co-edited with Janna Houwen and Liesbeth Minnaard. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

Reviewed by: Francesca Zaccone, The Journal of Greek Media and Culture 8.1, 2022. 113-115.

  • Subjects Barbarian, Monstrous, and Wild: Encounters in the Arts and Contemporary Politics. Co-edited with Tyler Sage. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2018.
  • Barbarism Revisited: New Perspectives on an Old Concept. Co-edited with Christian Moser. Leiden and Boston: Brill / Rodopi, 2015.
  • Inside Knowledge: (Un)doing Ways of Knowing in the Humanities. Co-edited with C. Birdsall, I. Sapir, and P. Verstraete. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009.

Special Journal issues

  • Greece and the South: Grammas of Comparison, Protest, and Futurity. Ed.  by Maria Boletsi & Dimitris Papanikolaou. Journal of Greek Media and Culture. 8.2 (2022).
  • Ruins in Contemporary Greek Literature, Art, Cinema, and Public Space. Edited by Maria Boletsi & Ipek A. Celik-Rappas. Journal of Modern Greek Studies. 38.2 (2020).

Key articles & book chapters 

  • “Introduction. Greece and the Global South: Gestures of Spatial Disobedience.” With Dimiris Papanikolaou. Journal of Greek Media and Culture. 8.2 (October 2022): 129-141 (introduction to special issue). https://doi.org/10.1386/jgmc_00054_2
  • “Grammars of Crisis: Introduction.” In (Un)timely Crises: Chronotopes and Critique. Ed. Maria Boletsi, Natashe Lemos-Dekker, Kasia Mika, Ksenia Robbe. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021. 23-28. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-74946-0_3
  • “Introduction: From Crisis to Critique.” Co-authored with Janna Houwen and Liesbeth Minnaard. Languages of Resistance, Transformation, and Futurity in Mediterranean Crisis-Scapes: From Crisis to Critique. Ed. Maria Boletsi, Janna Houwen, and Liesbeth Minnaard. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. 1-24. Open access: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-36415-1_1
  • “Crisis, Terrorism, and Post-Truth: Processes of Othering and Self-Definition in the Culturalization of Politics.” Subjects Barbarian, Monstrous, and Wild: Encounters in the Arts and Contemporary Politics. Ed. Maria Boletsi and Tyler Sage. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2018. 17-50.
  • “The Revenge of Fiction in New Languages of Protest: Holograms, Post-truth, and the Literary Uncanny.” Frame: Journal of Literary Studies 31.2 (2018): 13-34.
  • “Europe and Its Discontents: Intra-European Violence in Dutch Literature after 9/11.” 9/11 in European Literature: Negotiating Identities Against the Attacks and What Followed. Ed. Svenja D. Frank. Cham, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. 283-322.
  • “The Unbearable Lightness of Crisis: (Anti-)Utopia and Middle Voice in Sotiris Dimitriou’s Close to the Belly.” Greece in Crisis: Culture and the Politics of Austerity. Ed. Dimitris Tziovas. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2017. 256-81.
  • “From the Subject of the Crisis to the Subject in Crisis: Middle Voice on Greek Walls.” Journal of Greek Media and Culture. 2.1 (2016). 3-28.

This article was translated in Greek and German and included in 3 languages in:

The Documenta 14 Reader. Ed. Quinn Latimer and Adam Szymczyk. Prestel / Random House, 2017. 431-68.

  • “Still Waiting for Barbarians after 9/11? Cavafy’s Reluctant Irony and the Language of the Future.” Journal of Modern Greek Studies 32.1 (2014): 55-80. 10.1353/mgs.2014.0018
  • “Cannibalism and Literary Indigestibility: Figurations of Violence in Bart Koubaa’s De leraar.” Journal of Dutch Literature 3:2, 2012: 39-67. 
  • “Barbarian Encounters: Rethinking Barbarism in C.P. Cavafy’s and J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians.Comparative Literature Studies 44. 1-2 (2007): 67-96. 
  • “How to Do Things With Poems: Performativity in the Poetry of C.P. Cavafy.” Arcadia: International Journal of Literary Studies 41. 2 (2006): 396-418. 

Associate professor

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

Work address

Arsenaalstraat 1
2311 CT Leiden
Room number B1.04



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