FASS646: Critical Theory for Postgraduate Research

Module description

This module provides postgraduates working in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences with a basic introduction to modern critical theory by way of exploring its implications for postgraduate research.

Educational Aims

This module is designed to enhance the knowledge and intellectual abilities of postgraduates by encouraging them to apply critical-theoretical ideas to their own research. First, it introduces students to the history of post-1945 critical theory as well as important thinkers, debates and movements within this field. Second, it will particularly focus on how critical theory has impacted on the arts and social sciences including literary studies, history, politics, religious studies and other disciplines. Finally, it encourages students to think about how specific theoretical ideas, tools and methodologies may be applied to their own research projects.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate enhanced knowledge of and intellectual abilities in respect of postgraduate research;
  2. Evidence critical appreciation of relevant theoretical research methodologies;
  3. Demonstrate enhanced cognitive skills through their ability to analyze, synthesize, evaluate and think creatively;
  4. Evidence creative thinking through a more-developed inquiring approach, critical-theoretical insight and greater intellectual risk-taking.


Sessions will comprise: introductory lecture/presentation by tutor on a relevant theory, followed by group discussion.

  1. Introduction: Critical Theory for Postgraduate Study
  2. Genealogy: Foucault.
  3. Deconstruction: Derrida.
  4. Immanence: Deleuze.
  5. Event: Badiou
  6. Psychoanalysis: Lacan to Zizek
  7. Biopolitics: Agamben
  8. Precarity: Butler
  9. Aesthetics: Ranciere
  10. Conclusion

Introductory Reading

Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle, Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (Routledge, 2016) (5th edition)

Ian Buchanan, A Dictionary of Critical Theory (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Vincent B. Leitch, et al eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism [2nd Edition],.  (W.W. Norton & Company, 2010)

Anthony Easthope and Kate McGowan eds. A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader, [2nd edition], (Open University Press, 2004)

Paul Wake ed. The Routledge Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory (Routledge, 2013).

Timing and Location




17/01/18 - 21/03/18

Number of sessions:

8 x 1 hour sessions and 1 x 2 hour session

Timing and Location:


weeks 11-14, 17-20: 9.00-10.00, County Main Seminar Room 04

week 16: 9.00-11.00, Charles Carter A19


Additional information

Minimum quota: 6