Thijs Witty is an assistant professor at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society.
Fields of interest
- Artistic Research
- Cultural Analysis
- Frankfurt School Critical Theory
- Popular Education
My main scholarly interest is literary essayism. Despite a long and varied history, the essay form gets mostly sidelined in the study of literature. It is nonetheless a ubiquitous genre: from highbrow edited volumes to school assignments, from critical theory writings to newspaper op-eds, from postmodern autofictions to celebrity memoirs, the essay appears in many guises and has considerable readerships to boot.
In my PhD project I attempted to figure out how the essay form can be distinguished from other forms of intellectual expression. I concluded that an appropriate definition can be found in its ability for measurement. Through a comparative analysis of various writers, I demonstrated how the essay form offers precision for parts of human life that resist exact measures, such as traumatic or sublime experiences.
In the course of my research I also became interested in the tradition of the essay film. This has since led to a research project on the relationship between film essayism and so-called popular education. The project mainly compares the film essayism of Third and Fourth Cinema with pedagogies of co-learning and horizontality. Another project, tentatively titled The Essay in the Academy, will explore the mutual entanglement of the essay as a scholarly genre and the disciplinary knowledge that emerged from the modern university. As a side project I am currently working on a long-form essay, titled Unadaptable Screenplays. This research project broadly considers the artistic potential of screenplays written by women in the early Hollywood era. Prominent authors on my list include Alice Guy, Lillian J. Sweetser, Thea von Harbou, Frances Marion, and Frederica Sagor Maas, who all wrote impressive numbers of screenplays, with many of them also produced as motion pictures. By comparing these writers’ lives and screenplays, I want to qualify their responses to a compromised and temporary inclusion in the film industry, before male-dominated professionalisation would exclude them from meaningful participation.
Grants and awards
- ASCA PhD Fellowship (2013-2017)
Thijs Witty is an Education and Research Staff Member at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS), where he works in the Film and Literary Studies program. He is also a member of the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA), where he mainly teaches in the Creative Strategies Minor.
Thijs also works at the Master Education in the Arts at Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. In the past he has worked as theory tutor and thesis supervisor for DAS Choreography (Academy of Theatre and Dance, Amsterdam) and the Master Artistic Research (Royal Academy of Art, Den Haag).
Thijs completed his PhD in Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam in 2019. In 2021 he also obtained his NT2 certificate (teacher Dutch as a second language).
- Faculty of Humanities
- Centre for the Arts in Society
No relevant ancillary activities