Universiteit Leiden

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Maria Boletsi

University Lecturer

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

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

More information about Maria Boletsi

Curriculum vitae

Maria Boletsi is assistant professor at the Film and Literary Studies Department of Leiden University. Since January 2018, she is also 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: In Literature, Art, and Theory, 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 Stanley Seeger Research fellow at Princeton University (2016), a visiting scholar at Geneva University (2016) and Columbia University (2008-2009) and a participant in the Cornell School of Criticism and Theory (2006). 

Maria has published on several topics, including the cultural history of barbarism, the concept of crisis, post-9/11 literature and political rhetoric, Dutch, English and Modern Greek literature, and alternative expressive forms and subjectivities in the context of the Greek (and Eurozone) ‘crisis.’ She is the author of Barbarism and Its Discontents (Stanford UP 2013) and co-author of Barbarian: Explorations of a Western Concept in Theory, Literature and the Arts. Vol. 1 (Metzler 2018) and De lichtheid van literatuur (The Lightness of Literature) on the role of literature in the multicultural society (Acco 2015). She has co-edited the volumes Barbarism Revisited: New Perspectives on an Old Concept (Brill/Rodopi 2015) and Subjects Barbarian, Monstrous, and Wild: Encounters in the Arts and Contemporary Politics (Brill 2018). She is currently writing a book on the ‘spectral’ in the poetics of the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy and his poetry’s contemporary afterlives.

Fields and topics of interest

  • Literary, cultural, and political theory
  • Modern Greek literature and culture
  • English and Dutch literature
  • Conceptual history
  • Intersections of literature, art, and politics
  • Post-9/11 literature and art
  • Literature and ‘crisis’


In my current research, I explore the workings of the concept of barbarism in cultural theory, literature, and public rhetoric, with a focus on the period from 1989 to the present. I am also interested in new directions in art, literature, and theory after “9/11” and in the ways contemporary literature and art relate to the currently popular rhetoric of crisis in Europe and the Mediterranean. In the field of Modern Greek Studies, I center on narratives and forms of artistic and cultural expression that deviate from dominant accounts of the ‘Greek crisis.’ The work of the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy has also been a constant reference point in my research and writing since 2005. 

a. Collaborative Project on the 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 explores the modern history of the concept “barbarism” in Europe, 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, this project contributes to a critical and historically grounded understanding of this concept’s past and contemporary uses. It thereby foregrounds this concept’s foundational role in modern European history and identity.

The first part of the project (volume I) has been completed and resulted in a co-authored monograph on barbarism from the 18th to the early 20th century  (Metzler 2018).

The second part of the project, which will be completed in 2020, will focus on the 20th and 21st centuries.

The project springs 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 first part of the project (completed) was funded by the NWO and the SNF (Swiss National Science Foundation, as part of a grant for a research project led by Prof. Markus Winkler).

Go here for more information.

b. Crisis-Rhetoric and Alternative Grammars

I am currently working on a project that scrutinizes the public rhetoric on the Greek ‘crisis’ since 2009 and explores alternative ‘grammars’ that deviate from dominant narratives of the crisis. I am particularly interested in literature, street art, and forms of artistic expression and protest cultures that mobilize the middle voice to articulate alternative notions of subjectivity, agency, and civic responsibility to those on which ‘crisis rhetoric’ usually hinges, and to produce multiple narratives of the present and the future.

With Janna Houwen and Liesbeth Minnaard we are preparing an edited volume on a related topic, titled From Crisis to Critique: Languages of Resistance, Transformation, and Futurity in Mediterranean Crisis-Scapes (forthcoming by Palgrave Macmillan).

c. Specters of Cavafy

Drawing from recent theorizations of the ‘specter’ as a conceptual metaphor in cultural theory, in this project I develop spectrality as a theoretical and analytical lens for revisiting Cavafy’s poetry and its bearing on our present. This project will result in a monograph that 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 crisis-stricken Greece today.

Key publications


Boletsi M., Janna Houwen and Liesbeth Minnaard (eds.). Languages of Resistance, Transformation, and Futurity in Mediterranean Crisis-Scapes: From Crisis to Critique (forthcoming by Palgrave Macmillan).

Winkler M., Boletsi M., Herlth J., Moser C., Reidy J. & Rohner M. 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.

Boletsi, M. and T. Sage (eds.). Subjects Barbarian, Monstrous, and Wild: Encounters in the Arts and Contemporary Politics. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2018.

Boletsi M. and C. Moser (eds.). Barbarism Revisited: New Perspectives on an Old Concept. Amsterdam & New York: Brill / Rodopi, 2015.

Boletsi M., I. Hoving, L. Minnaard & S. de Mul. De lichtheid van literatuur: Engagement in de multiculturele samenleving, Leuven: Acco, 2015.

Barbarism and Its Discontents (2013). Stanford: Stanford University Press. 

Barbarism, Otherwise: In Literature, Art, and Theory. Leiden University, 2010 (Ph.D dissertation).

Birdsall C., M. Boletsi, I. Sapir, and P. Verstraete (eds.). Inside Knowledge: (Un)doing Ways of Knowing in the Humanities. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009.

Articles & Book chapters  (selection)

“Faith, Irony, Salt, and Possible Impossibilities: J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus in Conversation with Zbigniew Herbert’s ‘From Mythology’.” Mehigan T., Moser C. (Eds.) The Intellectual Landscape in the Works of J.M. Coetzee. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2018. 133-157.

“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.

The above 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.

“The Barbarism(s) of Multilingualism: Outweirding the Mainstream in Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s Performance Literature.” Challenging the Myth of Monolingualism. Ed. Liesbeth Minnaard and Till Dembeck. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2014. 149-170.

“Cannibalism and Literary Indigestibility: Figurations of Violence in Bart Koubaa’s  De leraar.” Journal of Dutch Literature 3:2, 2012: 39-67. 

“Migratory Objects in the Balkans: When the Sound of the Other Sounds Strangely Familiar.”Davis R G., Fischer-Hornung D., Kardux J K. (Eds.) Performing Migration: Aesthetic Practices and Politics in Media and Music. London and New York: Routledge, 2010. 145-169.

“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. 


University Lecturer

  • 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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