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‘Heroes and villains’ is the theme of the first edition of the Humanities Night: an evening in which literature, philosophy and science go hand in hand. We come across them in comic strips, novels and in our daily Netflix series: heroes and villains. They form two opposites, with which many aspects of our present and past are simplified. But the distinction is not always so clear-cut: yesterday’s hero is today’s villain, if you want to be a hero, you’ll struggle without a villain, and one person’s hero is another person’s villain. The clash between heroes and villains is often entertainment, but it also has something of a sublime spectacle about it: the clash symbolises the conflict between good and evil, a conflict we all have to tackle on a small scale. What exactly is the relationship between these two giants: good and evil?

Salman Rushdie

During this evening, in three halls at TivoliVredenburg, writers, philosophers and scientists will put forward their views on heroes and villains, good and evil. The great British novelist Salman Rushdie is our guest of honour. If anyone has immortalised both the hero and the villain in inimitable fashion in their novels, it’s Rushdie. In the commotion following the publication of The Satanic Verses, Rushdie himself was, against his will, hailed as both hero and villain. His latest novel, The Golden House, can be read as a modern clash between today’s heroes and villains. The book describes the world in which a figure like Trump (although this name is never used) can be elected president. What pushes every other candidate into the abyss makes ‘The Joker’ (because this is how he is described) a hero for a large group of voters. ‘The novel’s characters are outsized, heroic or villainous,’  Tom Leclair wrote, ‘With its numerous Greek and Roman references, The Golden House recalls the fall of Troy and the exiles’ invention of Rome in the Aeneid.’

Big data & pancakes

Furthermore, there will be a number of mini-lectures about contemporary protest movements and the role of social media, the banality of evil in the work of Hannah Arendt, the role and use of Big Data in our society and the ethics surrounding the use of armed drones in warfare. There will also be real-life heroes, such as Willem Dieleman, who, after studying book science, wanted to do something good and positive: he spent two and a half years travelling the world, armed with a pan, to cook pancakes for street children in Cambodia, destitute families in Pakistan and backpackers in Australia. We will round off the Humanities Night with a pub quiz, music and drinks.

The full programme and a timetable of the Humanities Night will be published on this page in September. Buy your tickets now!

Ticket sale

For the Humanities Night you can only buy one ticket per person. This is because of security measures. It is therefore not possible to buy several tickets or let someone else go on your name instead. Tickets can be bought until 18th of September, 01:00h. There will be no ticket sale on the day of the event.

On this night you are obliged to bring valid identification. This will be checked.


The Humanities Night is organised by the ILFU in partnership with Utrecht University’s Centre for Humanities. It presents an evening about the arts and science. The arts in a broad sense, so not only literature, but also (art) history, philosophy, media and culture studies and more, in the form of talks, workshops and debate.

Wednesday 19 September

Time: 19:00 - 23:00 Hour
Admission fees: €20
Admission fees friends: €15
Category: , ,
Language: Nederlands|Engels

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Vredenburgkade 11
3511 WC Utrecht