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EN2C8/3C8 Explorations in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies

Convenor: Dr Nick Lawrence (
Office hours: tba
Provisional syllabus for 2024-25 coming soon


Benevolent AI headquarters


ECTCS is designed to allow intensive engagement with selected traditions of classic and contemporary critical theory, along with cultural case studies that highlight issues of theoretical interest. In 2024-25, we’ll focus on the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) via the development of large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT. Specifically, we’ll attempt to understand recent discourses around AI within the context of related crises over work and nature. Questions to consider include: What is artificial about artificial intelligence? How far will automation replace human workers? What role might AI play in climate breakdown, environmental justice movements, eco-utopias/dystopias and debates around the futures of art, love and sex? How can recent advances in understanding the diversity and complexity of nonhuman intelligence contribute to a clearer view of what AI can and can’t do? Will ChatGPT destroy the university?

The format of the module 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, technology and the environment sheds light on the origins and future of AI, while feeding urgent projects of envisioning and mapping alternatives to the status quo. Authors may include, among others, Karl Marx, Tithi Bhattacharya, Kathi Weeks, Kodwo Eshun, Mark Fisher, Ursula LeGuin, Ted Chiang and James Bridle.


The module will be conducted as a combination of introductory mini-lectures, seminar discussion and collective practice-based experiment, with the goal of clarifying, unpacking and critically examining issues raised by the reading. With that in mind, it’s crucial that participants come prepared to share their observations, insights, confusions, etc., in the spirit of collective learning and discovery.


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)