Critical & Cultural Theory

Faculty List

Thomas S. Davis, Area Convener
Jim Phelan, Critical Theory Minor contact

Critical theory examines the concepts, premises, and discourses that shape economic systems, cultural production, and social and political life. The history of critical theory reaches back to the cluster of intellectuals in the 1920s associated with the Frankfurt School. Those thinkers wanted to put existing forms of philosophy into action, to use thinking to create change in the material world. Over the last several decades, critical theory has evolved and expanded to include a wide variety of critical modes: postcolonial theory, feminism, critical race theory, queer theory, Marxism and post-Marxism, disability and crip theory, posthumanism, and ecocriticism, among others.

Students at Ohio State have multiple opportunities to explore the rich, diverse history of critical theory and to engage with the newest movements in the field.  Recent undergraduate and graduate courses have focused on everyday life theory, climate change and criticism, queer and transgender bio/cultural politics, interdisciplinarity, and postcoloniality.  We also offer an interdisciplinary critical theory minor for undergraduates.

Key Courses

Undergraduate courses:
ENG 3331: Thinking Theoretically
ENG 4576.01: History of Critical Theory 1: Plato to Aestheticism
ENG 4576.02: History of Critical Theory 2: 1900 to Present
ENG 4576.03: Issues and Movements

Graduate courses:
ENG 6776.01: From Plato to Aestheticism
ENG 6776.02: From 1900 to the Contemporary Period
ENG 6790: Foundations in Contemporary Critical Theory
ENG 6791: Introduction to Graduate Study in Critical Theory: Contemporary Movements
ENG 7876: Seminar in Critical Theory
ENG 8888: Interdepartmental Seminar in Critical Theory

Affiliated Groups

Reading Group on Queer Theories, Studies, & Methodologies
Co-Organizers: Zachary Harvat and Pritha Prasad
This group for graduate students and faculty meets once a month. We discuss exigent topics in the field such as queer archives, queering digital media studies, the social turn in the humanities and social sciences, affect, and crip politics/theory, among others. In addition to reading published works, we also hope to meet at least once in the semester to workshop and discuss our own works-in-progress.

Scholarships & Awards

Robert E. Reiter Prize for Critical Analysis
Undergraduate Human Rights Award