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German Critical Theory

  • Module code: PH7904
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: 7
  • Credits: 30
  • Pre-requisites: None
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

This module involves guided study of two or three major works of twentieth-century German critical theory or philosophy, focusing each year on the work of two or more related thinkers, such as Benjamin, Adorno, Horkheimer, Habermas, Sloterdijk. Indicative topics include: critique of enlightenment, philosophy of history, the non-identical, dialectics, materialism, reification, freedom, communicative reason and the philosophical response to the Shoah.

Aims

The aims of this module are to:

  • Provide students with an understanding of the distinctive features, issues and problems of German Critical Theory through knowledge of key texts, informed by critical awareness of current debates in the field.
  • Enable students to assess the main philosophical concepts of the thinkers studied.
  • Enable students to assess competing interpretations of the philosophical legacies and main writings of the thinkers studied.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Understand the distinctive features, issues and problems of modern German critical theory and philosophy through knowledge of key texts, informed by critical awareness of current debates in the field.
  • Assess the diverse philosophical concepts associated with their main works.
  • Assess competing interpretations of the philosophical legacies of the thinkers studied.
  • Undertake the work of close textual analysis of demanding philosophical texts.

Comprehend, reconstruct and interpret philosophical arguments, and situate these arguments in the context of the history of philosophy.

Curriculum content

The module includes:

  • Analysis of a founding text of German Critical Theory.
  • Examination of the relationship between the theories of two or more major German critical theorists.
  • Consideration of the critical exchanges between the main figures studied.
  • Detailed philosophical analysis of a major philosophical work in German Critical Theory (for example, Adorno's Negative Dialectics) and a discussion of its current significance.

Teaching and learning strategy

This module will be taught by means of a mix of lectures and seminars, supplemented by individual tutorials and private study. Emphasis is placed on seminar-based discussion.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive UNISTATS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Seminars/lectures: 10 taught sessions (2.5 hours each) 25
Scheduled learning and teaching Group and individual tutorials (one scheduled hour plus office hours) 1
Scheduled learning and teaching Directed and Independent Learning 274
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to test a student's ability to meet the module's learning outcomes. Summative assessment involves one piece of written work:

  • A 5,000- to 6,000-word essay, worth 100% of the final mark.

The skills required to prepare this assessed elements will be developed in a variety of formative activities throughout the module, notably through class discussion, feedback on in-class presentations, and individual tutorials. Preparation includes a scheduled tutorial with the module tutor.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Understand the distinctive features, issues and problems of German Critical Theory through knowledge of key texts, informed by critical awareness of current debates in the field. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work
Assess philosophical concepts of the thinkers studied. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work
Assess competing interpretations of the debates between the main thinkers studied. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work
Assess competing interpretations of the debates between the main thinkers studied. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work
Comprehend, reconstruct and interpret philosophical arguments, and situate these arguments in the context of the history of philosophy. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work

Elements of Assessment

Description of Assessment Definitive UNISTATS Categories Percentage
Coursework 5000 to 6000 word essay 100
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS a requirement that the major category of assessment is passed in order to achieve an overall pass for the module.

Bibliography core texts

Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics (1966; trans. E.B. Ashton London: Routledge, 1973).

Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project (Cambridge MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1999)

Jürgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, 2 vols (1981; trans. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1984)

Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944; trans. Stanford University Press, 2002)

Peter Sloterdijk, Critique of Cynical Reason (1983; trans. Verso, 1988).

Bibliography recommended reading

Theodor W. Adorno, Lectures on Negative Dialectics (1965/6; Cambridge: Polity, 2008).

Theodor W. Adorno and Walter Benjamin, The Complete Correspondence, 1928-1940 (Cambridge: Polity, 1998)

Susan Buck-Morss, The Origin of Negative Dialectics; Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin and the Frankfurt Institute (New York: Free Press, 1977).

N. C. Gibson and A. Rubin, (eds.), Adorno: A Critical Reader, (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002).

Tom Huhn (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Adorno (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Fredric Jameson, Late Marxism: Adorno, or, the Persistence of Dialectic (London and New York: Verso, 1990).

Jarvis, S., 1998, Adorno: A Critical Introduction, Cambridge: Polity, 1998).

Martin Jay, Adorno (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984).

I. Macdonald and K. Ziarek (eds.), Adorno and Heidegger: Philosophical Questions (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007).

Max Pensky, (ed.), The Actuality of Adorno: Critical Essays on Adorno and the Postmodern (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997).

Brian O'Connor, ed, The Adorno Reader (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000).

------------------- Adorno's Negative Dialectic: Philosophy and the Possibility of Critical Rationality (Cambridge MA and London: MIT, 2004).

Gillian Rose, The Melancholy Science: An Introduction to the Thought of Theodor W. Adorno (London: Macmillan, 1978).

A. Benjamin and P. Osborne (eds), Walter Benjamin's Philosophy: Destruction and Experience (London and New York: Routledge, 1994/2nd ed. Manchester: Clinamen, 2000).

Howard Caygill, Walter Benjamin: The Colour of Experience (London and New York: Routledge, 1998).

B. Hansen and A. Benjamin eds, Walter Benjamin and Romanticism (London and New York: Continuum, 2004).

John McCole, Walter Benjamin and the Antinomies of Tradition (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993).

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