I am a Professor of Comparative Literature at the Department of Culture Studies of Tilburg University. I was a fellow at the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Sciences (NIAS) in 1998/99 and 2004/05. I did my PhD on the poetry of Paul Celan read from a Derridean perspective. I published several books and articles in Dutch - such as Correspondenties, Gedichten lezen met gedichten -  and many articles in English on European literature, intellectual history, and new positions of authorship. My book Writers as Public Intellectuals, Literature, Celebrity, Democracy (2016) appeared at Palgrave McMillan. Currently, I work on the research (book) project Experiences of Migration in Literature, The Pedagogy of Fiction (Cambridge Publishers), and Truths of Fiction in Democratic Societies. I am a member of the Social Sciences and Humanities board of NWO (2018-2023), and president of the Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde.


In my research I examine how literary styles and practices are of influence in the analysis and understanding of current democratic public sphere(s).

My first interest is in how the political is reflected in literature: I consider political scenarios as well as specific literary mechanisms and their relevance in digital public spheres. 'Fiction literacy' can help to comprehend emerging phenomena such as fake news, the play with fabricated identities, and the experience of 'realism erosion'.

My second interest is in how author positions develop in digitalised public spheres and how new forms of activism and cultural authority are effective as aesthetic interventions in political and social debates.


- BA Truth of Fiction

- BA Transformations of the Public Sphere

- BA Feminist Studies: Artists & Intellectuals

- MA New Private & Public Spheres

- MA Beauty and the Sublime Online

All my courses are 'concept driven': we use concepts as lenses to observe, analyse and understand cultural and social phenomena. All courses relate theory to cultural practice, history to contemporary phenomena, offline to online artefacts and styles of writing. All courses are research-based and interactive.



I enjoy working with PhD students on topics regarding Chinese public intellectuals; New aestheticised digital public spheres; Activist theatre and climate change; Activist art photography.

With Kate Huber and students., I work on Reading Migration through an Environmental Justice Lens.

With Julian Hanna, I work on Fiction as Investigation, Methodologies in Thinking about Climate Change


I am editor of the Ezine: Diggit Magazine in which students and staff members collaborate and our academic discussions are shared with broad publics:



Recente publicaties

  1. 'Fiction Literacy' in the Media Society: How to keep a grip on Realit…

    Heynders, O. (Author). (2023). 'Fiction Literacy' in the Media Society: How to keep a grip on Reality Erosion. Web publication/site
  2. Guest Lecture 'Literature in Crisis' series: Dalarna University, Falu…

    Heynders, O. (2023). Guest Lecture 'Literature in Crisis' series: Dalarna University, Falun, Sweden. In Child migration in Literary Texts
  3. Jaarrede 2023: Biografie als Dialoog: Hella S. Haasse als Publieke In…

    Heynders, O. (2023). Jaarrede 2023: Biografie als Dialoog: Hella S. Haasse als Publieke Intellectueel. In Jaarboek Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde 2022-2023
  4. Keep on Reading Fiction - 2023 in three fictional novels

    Heynders, O. (Author). (2023). Keep on Reading Fiction: 2023 in three fictional novels. Web publication/site
  5. Keynote lezing: Fictie en democratie: de schoft en het robotmeisje

    Heynders, O. (2023). Keynote lezing: Fictie en democratie: de schoft en het robotmeisje.

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