Critical Theory: Program Overview

Over the past three decades, the term "critical theory" has come to designate, particularly in the United States, a type of study that cuts across disciplines to examine the premises, concepts, and categories that structure academic discourse in areas such as literary studies, art history, film studies, history, philosophy, and political theory, to name just a few. Critical theory is therefore not limited to a particular field or even to specific content; it is involved wherever methods, concepts, and social formations are not simply taken for granted but subjected to systematic and rigorous critical reflection.

Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences offers a minor in critical theory, an interdisciplinary program of study enabling undergraduates to acquire understanding of critical theory's many dimensions and fields of application. It aims to give students a chance to develop their interests in various dimensions of critical theory, with particular emphasis on literary theory, continental philosophy, and political theory. Requirements for the minor can be found in the Undergraduate Catalog.

Graduate students in relevant fields can participate in Northwestern's Interdisciplinary Cluster in Critical Theory. Graduate students in all department and programs at Northwestern can also complete courses towards  the Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate  in Critical Theory. The cluster provides a thorough introduction to critical theory through a structured, interdepartmental curriculum. Exposure to critical theory is highly recommended for students of literature, philosophy, politics, culture, the visual arts, gender and race studies, rhetoric, and society in our post-colonial, post-modern world. Northwestern also offers the Paris Program in Critical Theory, which affords up to five advanced graduate students, from a wide variety of disciplines, a unique opportunity to spend one year in Paris familiarizing themselves with French and European theoretical research. A new, alternate stream has also been introduced, named  the Graduate Certificate in Critical Theory (Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main Exchange Program). It may be completed through 3 courses undertaken at Northwestern and the remainder at the Goethe University of Frankfurt. For further information see here or contact m-alznauer@northwestern.edu.

For more information about the undergraduate minor, contact Michael Loriaux. For information about the graduate cluster, contact Penelope Deutscher or Peter Fenves.

Contact p-fenves@northwestern.edu for information about the graduate certificate in critical theory (including certification of completion of the certificate).

Contact p-deutscher@northwestern.edu for information about limited funding assistance which may be available to critical theory graduate affiliates delivering papers at relevant conferences.