Critical Theory: Enlightenment to Modernity


This course will help you to understand the extremely difficult and dense body of writing known as 'critical theory' by situating it in relation to the philosophy of the Enlightenment. Although the term 'critical theory' originally referred to the Marxist philosophy of the Frankfurt school in the 1930s and 40s, it later came to encompass wider forms of cultural critique including feminism, postcolonialism and biopolitics. Under this guise, it has had a huge impact on how we read literary texts in relation to culture and society. We will proceed by reading a series of essays in relation to specific enlightenment precursors, on topics including history, the sublime, gender, terrorism, and ecology. The texts that we will study together, often in translation, are dense and extremely demanding, but foundational to the ways in which we analyze literature now, offering key methodological tools for the development of longer research papers and `mémoires'.