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EN2C8/3C8 Explorations in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies

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

Dr Nicholas Lawrence (

Office hours: Wednesdays 4-5pm (MS Teams) and Thursdays 12-1pm (H535)

Seminars in 2021-22: Thursday 10am-11:30pm (H0.66) and 2-3:30pm (IHX1.01* - note this is on the 1st floor of ‘i-House’ next to Millburn House)

2021-22 syllabus


ECTCS is designed to allow sustained and intensive engagement with selected traditions of classic and contemporary critical theory. In 2021-22, we will look at two interrelated topics: (1) the future of work, encompassing theories of automation, digital labour, social reproduction, Afrofuturism, queer futures and post-capitalism; (2) the question of ecological futures, involving readings on climate breakdown, environmental justice, decolonising green movements, eco-utopias/dystopias and debates around the Anthropocene/ Capitalocene. Each strand will be anchored by a literary or cultural work that extends and fleshes out the implications of the theory we’ll be reading.

The format enables us to read in a focused manner across traditions of thought and to map connections between writers and their arguments. Our goal will be to explore ways in which the convergence of capitalist crises around work and the environment sheds light on the origins and future of each, while feeding urgent projects of envisioning and mapping alternatives to the status quo. Authors include, among others, Karl Marx, Arlie Hochschild, Kathi Weeks, Kodwo Eshun, Silvia Federici, José Esteban Muñoz, Octavia Butler and Kim Stanley Robinson.


The module will be conducted as an intensive discussion-based seminar, with the goal of clarifying, unpacking and critically examining what can be (yes!) quite difficult material. To get us going, seminar participants will record short responses to the weekly readings as videos for upload to our MS Stream channel, which will then provide the basis for further discussion in class.

Set texts (see syllabus for remaining readings)

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (Headline, 2019 [1993])
Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future (Orbit, 2020)


Intermediate years (Level 5): 2 x 2,500-word essays (80% assessed) + a podcast review (20% assessed)
Finalists (Level 6): 2 x 3,000-word essays (80% assessed) + a video presentation (20% assessed)