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EN264 Explorations in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies

This is a Pathway Approved Option for the Theory Pathway and an optional module for the English, North American and World Literature Pathways.


Professor Neil Lazarus (

Office hours: TBC

Seminars: Wednesday 11:00am - 1:00pm


This module is intended to allow sustained engagement with the work of a few important critical theorists and/or theoretical clusters. The format enables us to read in a focused manner across traditions of critical thought and to develop a detailed knowledge of select writers’ concerns and methods. In 2018-19, we will examine the work of Theodor W. Adorno and Fredric Jameson (Term 1) and of Franco Moretti and Pierre Bourdieu (Term 2). Reading primary works, we will attempt to reach a good understanding of the intellectual range and substantive ideas of each of these theorists, and of the key concepts associated with them.

The module is in seminar, not in lecture format. The reading is rewarding, if occasionally dense and difficult. Our aim will be to try to make it not just ‘good for you’ in the nutritional language of eat-your-veg, but worth sharing and savouring. That said, it should go without saying that in a module like this, you get out of it what you (help to) put into it; it’s crucial that participants taking the module prepare adequately for each seminar and take an active role in classroom discussion.


50/50 option: 2 x 2,500 word essays + 1 x 2hr seen exam
100% assessed option: 2 x 5,000 word essays

Syllabus 2018-19

Term 1

Week 1: Introduction to the Module

Weeks 2-5: Theodor W. Adorno

Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life [1951], trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: Verso).

Week 6: Reading week; no classes

Weeks 7-10: Fredric Jameson

Week 7:

‘The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’ [1984]. Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press): 1-54.

Week 8:

‘Conclusion: Secondary Elaborations’ [1991]. Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press): 297-418.

Week 9:

‘Culture and Finance Capital’. The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998 (London and New York: Verso, 1998): 136-61.
‘Globalization as a Philosophical Issue’. Valences of the Dialectic (London and New York: Verso, 2010): 435-55.

Week 10:

‘Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism’. Social Text 15 (1986): 65-88.

‘No Magic, No Metaphor (On One Hundred Years of Solitude). London Review of Books 39.12 (15 June 2017): 21-32.

Term 2

Weeks 1-5: Pierre Bourdieu

Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste [1979], trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Weeks 7-10: Franco Moretti

Week 7:

‘Conjectures on World Literature’ (2000). Reprinted in Distant Reading (London and New York: Verso): 43-62.

Week 8:

‘The Slaughterhouse of Literature’ (2000). Reprinted in Distant Reading: 63-90.

Week 9:

Various responses to ‘Conjectures’

Week 10:

‘More Conjectures’ (2003). Reprinted in Distant Reading: 107-20.

‘Serious Century’. The Novel. Vol. 1: History, Geography, and Culture. Ed. Franco Moretti (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006): 364-400.