HCM63 MA Cultural and Critical Theory

MA Cultural and Critical Theory (Cultural Theory)
Credit rating
Those joining the unit as an elective from the Faculty’s Postgraduate
Framework, or from elsewhere in the University can complete the unit
as a 20-credit elective.
Type of module
Delivered over one semester in lectures and seminars, and one-to-one
pre and post-essay tutorials.
To allow students to develop a sound grasp of the key intellectual
moments of cultural theory through the last half of the c.20th to the
present day, and thus to address the key theoretical developments in
Cultural Studies.
To enable students to engage with current academic literature at an
advanced level.
To facilitate students’ development of their analytical capacities to a
refined level, and to express themselves effectively to publishable
The development of a sophisticated understanding of the key elements
of cultural theory in the c.20th and c.21st;
the development of the capacity to apply theoretical material to modern
and contemporary social and cultural phenomena, and to recognise the
theoretical ground and presumptions of current commentary and
the development of an appreciation of the variety of methods of cultural
analysis, and their philosophical roots;
the development of an effective writing style commensurate with the
requisite level of analysis, and to a publishable level.
Designed to provoke critical reflection on the relationships between
theoretical practice and cultural commentary, this second unit on the
Aesthetics and Cultural Theory pathway provides a grounding in the
history of cultural theory for the less familiar, and a sophisticated, close
and critical reading of pivotal texts from that history. The Cultural
Theory unit offers an advanced introduction to the field of Cultural
Theory. Based around close readings of key texts, the course critically
interrogates central cultural concepts and thematics in the work of key
cultural theorists working in the last half of the twentieth century and
into the twenty-first. More generally, the course aims to examine and
assess the nature and purpose of cultural theory in the contemporary
world, and does so by tracing theoretical shifts and reconceptualisations
of ‘culture’ in relation to social, political, and geographical contexts. It
traces a route from the Marx-inspired Frankfurt School through the
profound conceptual shifts wrought by Structuralism, Post-structuralism
and the theorisation of identity politics. In this context, the course
considers the ways in which the issues of gender, sexuality and ‘race’
have contributed to the development of cultural politics. The unit will
conclude by inviting an assessment of the importance of cultural theory
for conceptualising the Postmodern moment and movement, and their
Culture, Hegemony and Power; the Frankfurt School and the Culture
Industry; Structuralism and Semiotic Theory; Foucault’s Theory of
Discourse; ‘Race’, Identity and Politics; Queer Theory and the Politics of
Sexuality; Postmodern Feminisms; Boltansky and Chiapello’s Cultural
Teaching and
learning strategies
This is a seminar-based unit, with 2-hour student presentations and
discussions weekly, supplemented by a core of 1.5-hour contextualising
lectures. Student assignments are preceeded by preparatory tutorials,
and succeeded by post-mortems. Further tutorial support is available
for seminar preparation. Weekly lectures and seminars account for a
minimum of 3.5 hours contact, plus tutorials, out of a total student
commitment of approximately 18 – 20 hours weekly.
Learning support
The unit is fully resourced by the University library, by the Faculty’s IT
facilities, and by contracted tutors.
Indicative bibliography
Adorno, T. W. The Stars Down to Earth and other essays on the
irrational in culture Routledge, 1994
Ahmad, A. In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures Verso, 1993
Balibar, E. and I Wallerstein, Race, Nation Class: Ambiguous
Identities,Verso, 1991
Barker, C. Cultural Studies and Discourse Analysis: a dialogue on
language and identity, 2001
Barry, P. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural
Theory (Manchester University Press, 1995)
Barthes, R. A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments (Penguin, 1990)
Barthes, R. Image, Music, Text (Fontana, 1977)
Barthes, R. Mythologies (Vintage, 1993)
Butler, J. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex",
(Routledge, 1993)
Butler, J. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity
(Routledge, 1990)
Césaire, A. Discourse on Colonialism (Monthly Review Press, 1977)
Clément, C. and Hélène Cixous, The Newly Born Woman, trans. Betsy
Wing (University of Minnesota Press, 1986)
Clément, C. The Weary Sons of Freud, trans. Nicole Ball (Verso, 1987)
Davis, M. City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Pimlico,
Dirlik, A. ‘The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of
Global Capitalism’ Critical Inquiry 20 (1994)
Eagleton, T. The Idea of Culture (Wiley-Blackwell, 2000)
Fiske, J. Reading the Popular (Unwin-Hyman, 1989)
Fornas, J. Cultural Theory and Late Modernity (Sage, 1995)
Foucault, M. The History of Sexuality, trans. by Robert Hurley, vol.1
(Vintage, 1990)
Gilroy, P. The Black Atlantic (London: Verso, 1993)
Hodge, B. and V. Mishra, ‘What is post-colonialism?’ Textual Practice
5:3 (1991)
Jameson, F. Late Marxism, Adorno, or, the persistence of the dialectic
(Verso, 1990)
Marable, M. ‘Beyond Racial Identity Politics’ in Race and Class 35:1
Mbembe, A. On the Postcolony (University of California Press, 2001)
Mulhern, F. Culture/Metaculture (Routledge, 2000)
Norris, C. The Truth About Postmodernism (Blackwell, 1993)
Ranjana Khanna, ‘Ethical Ambiguities and Spectres of Colonialism:
Futures of Transnational Feminism’, in Elizabeth Bronfen and
Misha Kavka (eds.), Feminist Consequences: Theory for the New
Century (Columbia U. P., 2001)
Richter, G. (ed.) Benjamin’s Ghosts: interventions in contemporary
literary and cultural theory (Stanford University press, 2002)
Schwartz, B. ‘Where Is Cultural Studies?’, Cultural Studies 8.3 (1994)
Smith, S. Subjectivity, Identity and the Body: Women’s Autobiographical
Practices in the c.20th (Indiana U. P., 1993)
Turner, B., M. Featherstone, and M. Hepworth, The body, social
process and cultural theory (Sage, 1991)
Zizek, S. ‘Multi-Culturalism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’ New
Left Review, 225 (1997)
Assessment tasks
Students produce a term paper at the end of the unit. Weighted at 15%
for those registered for the MA in Cultural and Critical Theory (and by
the appropriate weighting for elective/option units for those from other
MA programmes), and gaining 30 credits for a 5,000-word submission
and tutorials. The paper may be submitted at 3,000 words as the
assignment for the 20-credit elective/optional unit for those registered
on other programmes, and weighted according to their ‘home’
Brief description of
module content
and/or aims
(maximum 80
The Cultural Theory unit offers an advanced introduction to the field of
Cultural Theory. Based around close readings of key texts, the course
critically interrogates central cultural concepts and thematics in the work
of key cultural theorists working in the last half of the twentieth century
and into the twenty-first.
Area examination
board to which
module relates
Semester offered,
where appropriate
Site where
Date of first
Date of last
SHaCS; MA in Cultural and Critical Theory
Dr. Anta Rupprecht (coordinator), Dr. Cathy Bergin, Dr. V. Margree.
Semester 2
Pavilion Parade
Date of approval of
this version
Version number
Replacement for
previous module
Field for which
module is
acceptable and
status in that field
Course(s) for
which module is
acceptable and
status in that
School home
School of Historical and Critical Studies
External examiner
Compulsory Module
MA in Cultural and Critical Theory: compulsory core course on
Aesthetics and Cultural Theory pathway.
Elective course for those on other pathways, or on other MA
programmes in the School, Faculty or University, and an optional unit
for courses within the Faculty (Arts and Architecture) Postgraduate