Introduction to European Critical Theory

Subject 116-452 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2009.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 2-hour seminar per week
Total Time Commitment: 2 contact hours/week , 6.5 additional hours/week. Total of 10 hours per week.
Prerequisites: European Studies students wishing to enrol in this subject would normally have completed 37.5 points of second/third-year European Studies.
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Professor Alison Lewis

Subject Overview: This subject provides an introduction to major figures in European critical theory who came into international prominence in the 20th century such as Habermas, Adorno, Bakhtin, Benjamin, Luhmann, Iser, Foucault, Derrida, Barthes, Kristeva, Irigaray, Deleuze, Lacan and Baudrillard. It will survey the work of the German Frankfurt school and their interrogation of the relationship of aesthetics to politics in response to fascism and communism. It will continue with an exploration of major contributions of postwar French theorists who launch a full-scale questioning of meaning and representation. In these works, reference becomes infinitely deferred, meaning plural; the author or individual speaking subject is no longer the sole source of meaning and the world is mediatised. A particular focus will be the later Derrida, and issues such as memory, forgiveness, reconciliation, sovereignty and post 9/11 terrorism. On completion of this subject, students will have gained a critical understanding of the fundamental concepts and movements which have shaped critical thought and debate in the social sciences and humanities. They will be guided in the elaboration of their own research project, applying critical theory to a work of their choice. This subject is taught in English by specialists. It is based on the study of texts in the original language.
  • have gained a basic critical understanding of the fundamental concepts and movements (structuralism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, discourse analysis, feminism, postmodernism) which have shaped critical thought and debate in the social sciences and the humanities since the 1960s, including a recent critique of these thinkers by Sokal and Bricmont in their Impostures intellectuelles (1997).
Assessment: Written work totalling 5000 words: a 30-minute class paper of 1500 words 35% (written version due one week after presentation), a 3000-word essay (2000 words for third year students) 45% (due one week after the end of semester), and brief presentations on key issues for discussion (using net resources) totalling 500 words 20% (due at regular intervals during the semester).
Prescribed Texts: Materials supplied by the School in a course reader
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • apply certain methods of criticism on literary texts taken from a range of genres;
  • elaborate their own research project, applying literary criticism to a work of their choice.
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: French

Download PDF version.