Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
Critical Theories
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 11 x 2 hour seminars (large seminar group format)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   (1 x 2 hour)  50%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay, if essay element failed  50%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay in lieu of exam, if exam element failed  50%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Demonstrate an understanding of the key principles and concepts characteristic of relevant schools of thought.
2. Evaluate debates over the notions of 'critical theory' and the 'critical theory tradition'.
3. Identify the key areas of debate between the relevant schools of thought.
4. Explain the political and normative implications of theoretical disagreements between the relevant schools of thought.
5. Demonstrate an understanding of the salience and significance of critical theories in contemporary context.
6. Demonstrate an ability to apply the key principles of critical theories to concrete social and political debates.


The module supplements current Departmental provision on theoretical approaches to International Politics by offering a focused and holistic examination of critical theories and their internal lines of debate. It especially complements existing provision in the areas of political theory, poststructuralism, International Relations theory, Critical Security Studies and Postcolonial Studies. It seeks to examine the aims and nature of critical theorizing, the uses of critical theories in today's political contexts, and the theoretical and political lines of contention between critical theory perspectives.

Brief description

This module investigates the diverse set of perspectives associated with the term 'critical theory' in social and political science, from classical critical theory such as Marxism and the Frankfurt School to approaches such as Gramscianism, feminism, poststructuralism, post-Marxism and postcolonialism, which have developed the critical theory tradition's engagement with issues of oppression and emancipation in distinct directions. The central aim of the module is to ask 'what is "critical" about critical theory?' and to investigate what critical theories can contribute to our understandings of the contemporary political context - national and global. The module examines the ways in which critical theories analyze the nature of oppression, emancipation and resistance. Besides pointing to the commonalities between the diverse critical theory perspectives, the module also seeks to investigate the lines of contention between them, notably over what constitutes 'emancipation'. Students are encouraged to reflect on the political consequences of the disagreements among critical theorists in reference to concrete political contexts and to evaluate how far critical theorists make up a coherent 'tradition' of thought.


1. Aims and introduction
2. Origins of critical theory - Marxism and liberalism
3. Frankfurt School and emancipation
4. Gramsci and hegemony
5. Poststructuralism: critiques of emancipatory politics
6. Post-Marxism: rethinking resistance politics
7. Postcolonialism: critiques of 'western' critical theory
8. Feminism(s) on oppression and emancipation
9. Capitalism and globalisation
10. Democratic politics in contemporary context
11. Summary and revision

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing and how to present their arguments most effectively. They will understand the importance of information and clear communication and how to exploit these. They will know how to use the many sources of information available and how to use the most appropriate form of communication to the best advantage. They will learn to be clear in their writing and speaking and to be direct about aims and objectives. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic, focus and objectives of their argument or discussion. Seminars will be run in groups where oral discussion and presentations will form the main medium of teaching and the emphasis throughout the module will be on student participation and communication.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context in which support and assistance is available from both the convenor and fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and to exercise their own initiative, including searching for sources, compiling reading lists, and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their coursework and presentation topics. The need to conduct a seminar presentation and to meet coursework deadlines will focus students' attention on the need to manage their time and opportunity resources well.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources (such as Web of Science and OCLC). Students will also be expected to make use of the resources that will be available on the Blackboard VLE.
Personal Development and Career planning The discussions in particular will help to develop students' verbal and presentation skills. Learning about the process of planning coursework and a presentation, framing the parameters of the projects, honing and developing the projects and seeing them through to completion will contribute towards students' portfolios of transferable skills.
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one of the central goals of the module; the submission of coursework will require that students develop independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The need to research and prepare seminar presentations will also enable students to develop independent project skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to the problem; consider extreme cases; reason logically; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems. A final examination will ensure that an assessment of students' ability to work alone can be undertaken.
Research skills The submission of coursework will reflect the independent research skills of students. The need to locate appropriate research resources and write up the results will also facilitate research skills. Research preparation for a seminar presentation will also enable students to develop independent project skills. A final examination will ensure that an assessment of students' ability to work alone can be undertaken.
Subject Specific Skills Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of subject specific skills that help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas on the module. These subject specific skills include: - Collect and understand a wide range of data relating to the module - Ability to evaluate competing perspectives - Demonstrate subject specific research techniques - Apply a range of methodologies to complex historical and political problems
Team work Seminars will consist in part of small-group discussion where students will be obliged to discuss as a group the core issues related to seminar topics. Such class room debates and discussions are a vital component of the module.


This module is at CQFW Level 6