Philosophy and Contemporary Critical Theory MA

Why choose this course?

On this Philosophy and Contemporary Critical Theory MA course you'll study key works of critical theory in relation to the social and political problems of the present. It allows you to combine study of the two main traditions of critical theory, the Frankfurt School and French structuralism and anti-humanism, as well as engage with work by thinkers who have become influential only in the last two decades, e.g. Agamben, Spivak, Badiou, Butler and Deleuze.

While addressing contemporaries around questions like social justice, political power, class, identity, representation, and so on, this MA in critical theory grounds its problems and concepts in their specific philosophical context, with particular reference to the foundational work of Kant, Hegel and Marx.

It will prepare you for a wide range of careers in education, the arts, politics and public policy, and it also provides ideal preparation for doctoral research in philosophy or related disciplines.

You'll be based at the UK's leading Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) at Kingston University, where you will be part of a large, supportive and stimulating postgraduate community.

Mode Duration Start date
Full time 1 year September 2020
Full time 2 years including professional placement September 2020
Part time 2 years September 2020
Location Penrhyn Road

Reasons to choose Kingston University

  • This course is one of the largest and most successful MA courses of its kind in the UK.
  • The course is distinctive through its study of contemporary critical theory traditions (including psychoanalytic theory, feminist theory, Marxist theory and critical race theory) together with foundational texts in modern European philosophy, notably by Kant, Hegel and Marx.
  • You have easy access to London's research libraries and other research events, plus proximity to French, German and other European universities and libraries.

What you will study

You will study the two main traditions of critical theory – the Frankfurt School and French structuralism and post-structuralism – and their background in Kant, Hegel, Marx and in 19th-century European philosophy more generally.

You can choose from a wide range of module options, balanced by a shared central core of texts, concepts and problems.

You'll take one core taught module worth 30 credits, and then choose three other 30-credit modules from a range of options, before preparing the 15,000 word dissertation (worth 60 credits).

Modules

Optional placement year

The compulsory core module, 'Critique, Practice, Power' provides a historical and philosophical introduction to Frankfurt School and French anti-humanist conceptions of critical theory.

After introducing the field with reference to Kant's critical conception of philosophy on the one hand and Marx's critique of philosophy on the other, the module focuses on competing interpretations of the concepts of critique and emancipation in the work of figures like Lukács, Gramsci, Horkheimer and Adorno, Althusser, Foucault, Fanon, and other more recent thinkers.

Core modules

Critique, Practice, Power

30 credits

A historical and philosophical introduction to the two main 20th-century traditions of Critical Theory: the Frankfurt School and French anti-humanism. After several works devoted to Kant's conception of freedom and practical philosophy, the module focuses on competing conceptions of critique, practice and empowerment, in, for example, Marx, Lukács, Adorno and Horkheimer, Althusser, Foucault, and one or two more recent thinkers (e.g. Badiou or Rancière).

Philosophy Dissertation

60 credits

This module provides you with an opportunity for intensive and detailed research-based study of your chosen topic under the guidance of an appropriate MA dissertation supervisor.

Optional modules (The optional modules vary from year to year.)

Art Theory: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Contemporary

30 credits

Based on a study of artists' texts, art criticism, art history and philosophical writings on art, this module comprises a critical examination of the legacy and possibilities of modernist and avant-garde criticism in contemporary art theory. As well as introducing you to some of the major texts and ideas in these traditions of art theory and art criticism, the modules aims to enable you to reflect critically on works of contemporary art in the light of your study.

Contemporary European Philosophies

30 credits

This module involves the guided study of major works of contemporary European philosophy, with a focus on themes of time and temporality, broadly understood. The texts will be drawn from the last couple of decades. The module will analyse texts that explore the tension between historical and political time and experiential temporality. The module will focus on concepts such as epochality, the event, historical time, kairos, messianism, memory, anticipation, and revolution. Authors studied may include thinkers like Agamben, Badiou, Cixous, Derrida, Habermas, Negri, Stiegler and Sloterdijk. The module will study texts in the original language (French, German and Italian) and in English translations where available (and French translations for the German and Italian texts). An adequate reading knowledge of French will be a requirement for registration on the course.

German Critical Theory

30 credits

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.

Hegel and his Legacy

30 credits

Through our reading of the Phenomenology of Spirit, we will focus on the issue of understanding, more specifically of philosophical understanding. In the Preface, Hegel states that "philosophical writings" "have to be read over and over before they can be understood" (§63). Which specific mental, cognitive and affective operations does such a rereading imply? According to Hegel, our understanding (Verstand) is not, as a faculty, able to give us access to the "concept" (Begriff). What is it that our understanding does not understand? Through despair, doubt, skepticism and pain produced by the resistance of the philosophical statement, something appears — spirit. "Spirit that appears", such is the meaning of the title Phenomenology of Spirit, such is also the name of the proper philosophical understanding: revelation.

Kant and his Legacy

30 credits

This module provides students with a grounding in Kant's philosophy, through detailed study of the Critique of Pure Reason and its competing interpretations. The module presents Kant's critical project as an historical and conceptual basis for the understanding of subsequent European philosophy as a whole.

Kant and the Aesthetic Tradition

30 credits

This module provides an introduction to the tradition of philosophical aesthetics through a detailed study of its founding text, Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgement.

Nietzsche and Heidegger

30 credits

This module offers students an opportunity to study major works by Nietzsche and Heidegger. In particular it considers the relationship between Nietzsche's critique of metaphysics as the manifestation of an ascetic 'will to truth' and Heidegger's project of 'dismantling' and 'overcoming' metaphysics in light of a renewal of the question of being.

Philosophy and Psychoanalysis

30 credits

Each year this module focusses on a study of a different selection of Freud's major and minor works, mining them for their philosophical significance and reflecting on the implications of psychoanalysis for philosophy, particularly in relation to the philosophical notion of the subject. Where appropriate the module will discuss the critical development of this theoretical framework by psychoanalysts such as Jacques Lacan and Jean Laplanche, its reception and deployment in the tradition of Freudo-Marxist critical theory, and the theoretical transformation and political critique of Freudian theory in feminist and queer theory.

Plasticity and Form

30 credits

This module aims to investigate, via the concept of plasticity, the relations between 'thought' and 'form, that have structured certain central aspects of nineteenth and twentieth-century 'continental' philosophy. Each year, these relations are studied from a different point of view, and in relation to different thinkers. Thinkers covered might include Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault and Derrida. Each year the locus of study might include broad areas such as 'writing' (in Derrida's sense), 'literature' (Dichtung), 'habit', and 'trace'.

Political Philosophy

30 credits

This module involves guided study of one or more major works of modern political philosophy. Texts and themes vary from year to year, but possible topics include: power, class, the state, sovereignty, government, organisation, institution, constitution, representation, democracy, ideology, property, mode of production, capitalism, colonialism, slavery, violence, subjection, nature, citizenship, law, rights, difference, justice, legitimacy, insurrection, insurgency, revolution, resistance, and so on. Approaches to the material will be filtered through contemporary debates in European philosophy and critical theory, with reference to figures like Agamben, Foucault, Negri or Rancière; primary texts may include canonical works by Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx, as well as material associated with major political sequences like the revolutions in France, the Americas, Russia, Cuba, and so on, or with more recent sequences like the anti-colonial struggles, May 68, or social mobilisations around questions of race, sex, class, debt, etc. 

Recent French Philosophy

30 credits

This module involves guided study of two or three major works of twentieth-century French philosophy, focusing each year on the work of two related thinkers. Possible topics include: Sartre or de Beauvoir's existentialism, Levinasian ethics, Merleau-Ponty's theory of embodied perception, Foucault's theory of power, Derrida's practice of deconstruction, Deleuze's conception of difference, Badiou's concepts of the subject and truth.

Recent Italian Philosophy

30 credits

This module involves guided study of a selection of major works of post-war Italian philosophy, focusing each year on the work of two or more related thinkers. The module will explore the tension in Italian philosophy between the claims of theology and radical politics, one expressed in the turn to bio-philosophy and bio-politics during the 1990s. Thinkers studies include Agamben, Cacciari, Negri  and Esposito. Topics will include: the place of contemporary Italian philosophy with respect to the history of philosophy, its place with respect to French and German philosophy, political theology, time, bio-philosophy and bio-politics. 

Romantic Philosophy of Art

30 credits

This module provides an examination of Romantic philosophy of art in the light of the role played by early German Romanticism in recent philosophical and art-theoretical debates, with reference to more recent critical writing on Romanticism.

Topics in Modern European Philosophy

30 credits

Each year this module involves guided study of major works from the tradition of Modern European Philosophy, focussing either on a single text or on a range of texts in relation to a theme. The module offers students the opportunity to undertake intensive study under the guidance of a Professor – Étienne Balibar – who is himself a major thinker in the Modern European Tradition. Past topics have included Althusser, the dispute over humanism and the idea of a philosophical anthropology and the reception of Das Kapital in the Western Marxist Tradition. The content of the module changes each year, determined by the research expertise of the module tutor.

Many postgraduate courses at Kingston University allow students to do a 12-month work placement as part of their course. The responsibility for finding the work placement is with the student; we cannot guarantee the work placement, just the opportunity to undertake it. As the work placement is an assessed part of the course, it is covered by a student's Tier 4 visa.

Find out more about the postgraduate work placement scheme.

The information above reflects the currently intended course structure and module details. Updates may be made on an annual basis and revised details will be published through Programme Specifications ahead of each academic year. The regulations governing this course are available on our website. If we have insufficient numbers of students interested in an optional module, this may not be offered.

Entry requirements

Typical offer

Applicants should normally hold a good (upper-second [2:1] or first-class honours, or the equivalent) undergraduate degree in Philosophy or a related subject.

Applicants with other kinds of qualifications will be considered on an individual basis.

International

All non-UK applicants must meet our English language requirement, which is Academic IELTS of 6.5 overall, with no element below 5.5. Make sure you read our full guidance about English language requirements, which includes details of other qualifications we consider.

Applicants who do not meet the English language requirements could be eligible to join our pre-sessional English language course.

Applicants from a recognised majority English speaking countries (MESCs) do not need to meet these requirements.

Teaching and assessment

The course is delivered through relatively small seminars, which involve a mixture of structured lectures or presentations, textual analysis, and group discussion.

Guided independent study

When not attending timetabled sessions, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. This typically involves reading and analysing articles, regulations, policy document and key texts, documenting individual projects, preparing coursework assignments and completing your PEDRs, etc.

Your independent learning is supported by a range of excellent facilities including online resources, the library and CANVAS, the University's online virtual learning platform.

Support for postgraduate students

At Kingston University, we know that postgraduate students have particular needs and therefore we have a range of support available to help you during your time here.

Your workload

Year 1: 100% of your time is spent in timetabled teaching and learning activity.

Contact hours may vary depending on your modules.

Type of teaching and learning

Type of teaching and learning
  • Scheduled teaching and learning: 900 hours
  • Guided independent study: 0 hours

How you will be assessed

You'll be assessed through short exercises, essays, independent study, and a 15,000-word dissertation.

For this course you will be assessed entirely on submitted coursework (i.e. there are no exams, and no assessed oral presentations or practical components).

Type of assessment

Type of assessment
  • Coursework: 100%

Feedback summary

We aim to provide feedback on assessments within 20 working days.

Class sizes

To give you an indication of class sizes, this course normally enrols 10 to 12 students and module group sizes are normally 8 to 15 (plus other students who might be sitting in). However this can vary by module and academic year.

Who teaches this course?

This course is taught by leading specialists at the internationally renowned Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy. Postgraduate students may also contribute to the teaching of seminars under the supervision of the module leader.

Since its inception in 1994, the CRMEP has developed a national and international reputation for teaching and research in the field of post-Kantian European philosophy, characterised by a strong emphasis on broad cultural and intellectual contexts and a distinctive sense of social and political engagement.

In each of the last two research assessment exercises, RAE 2008 and REF2014, 65% of the research activities of the CRMEP were judged 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent', with 25% of its outputs for REF2014 judged 'world-leading'.

Fees for this course

Home and European Union 2020/21

  • MA full time £6,900
  • MA part time £3,795

Overseas (not EU) 2020/21

  • MA full time £14,500
  • MA part time £7,975

Fees for the optional placement year

If you choose to take a placement as part of this course, you will be invoiced for the placement fee in Year 2. Find out more about the postgraduate work placement scheme and the costs for the placement year.


Funding and bursaries

The Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) is pleased to announce a special CRMEP MA scholarship for a full-time student for the academic year 2020-2021.

The award is to the value of £9,900 (equivalent to UK/EU fees + £3,000 expenses). It is open to applicants to all of our postgraduate programmes.

Application is via the standard process, with the addition of a Statement in Support of Application for the Scholarship.

All applicants are also welcome to apply for one of Kingston's Annual Fund Scholarships, worth £3,000.

International students can also apply for an International Scholarship, worth £2,000.

Facilities

The campus at Penrhyn Road is a hive of activity, housing the main student restaurant, the extensive library and learning resources centre and a host of teaching rooms and lecture theatres.

The library provides books, journals, computers and a range of learning environments organised into silent, quiet and group study zones. It has long opening hours with 24 hour opening during key teaching weeks (October to June).

There are seven bookable group study rooms for when you need to work together. The large Learning Cafe serves light snacks and drinks.

At the heart of the campus is the John Galsworthy building, a six-storey complex that brings together lecture theatres, flexible teaching space and information technology suites around a landscaped courtyard.

After you graduate

Our graduates often progress to research degrees in European philosophy and critical theory, or to careers in media/journalism, publishing, the arts, education, and public policy.

A sample of graduate destinations for alumni of the MA in Philosophy and Contemporary Critical Theory include:

  • Franziska Aigner is writing a PhD at the CRMEP, and has published for artnodes: E-Journal on Art, Science and Technology.
  • Sigridur Torfadottir Tulinius now studies law at Queen Mary University of London.
  • Isabell Dahms began a PhD at CRMEP in autumn 2015 having been awarded a TECHNE-AHRC Consortium Studentship.
  • Axel Feldmann is co-founder of design company objectif.
  • Will Stronge is an associate lecturer in the philosophy department at the University of the West of England.
  • Maan Abutaleb is a freelance writer and co-founder/editor of Ma3azef.com - a magazine dedicated to the critique and analysis of contemporary Arabic music.
  • Ian Cuslidge is working as computer game designer.
  • Sebastian Truskolaski won a scholarship for a PhD in visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London.
  • Shehzad Amjad is working as a freelance journalist in Pakistan.
  • Diarmuid Hester did a PhD in English at the University of Sussex.
  • Cécile Malaspina wrote a PhD on Canguilhem at the University of Paris VII.

Links with business, industry and the research environment

The Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) organises regular research seminars, conferences or workshops each year.

Research seminars are usually held every fortnight during term time; recent speakers have included:

  • Giorgio Agamben (University of Paris 8);
  • Emily Apter (New York University);
  • Antonia Birnbaum (University of Paris-8);
  • Barbara Cassin (CNRS);
  • Miguel de Beistegui (University of Warwick);
  • Peter Dews (University of Essex);
  • Donna Haraway (University of California, Santa Cruz);
  • Sandra Harding (University of California, LA);
  • Stephen Houlgate (University of Warwick);
  • Kojin Karatani (Columbia University);
  • Koichiro Kokubun (Tokyo Institute of Technology);
  • Quentin Meillassoux (École Normale Supérieure);
  • Nina Power (Roehampton University);
  • Isabelle Stengers (Université Libre de Bruxelles);
  • Philippe Van Haute (Radboud University, Nijmegen);
  • Slavoj Zizek (Institute for Social Studies Ljubljana);
  • Alenka Zupancic (Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts).

Research areas

This Philosophy and Contemporary Critical Theory MA course is taught by internationally recognised specialists at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP), which has a national and international reputation for teaching and research in the field of post-Kantian European philosophy.

In each of the last two research assessment exercises, RAE 2008 and REF2014, 65% of the research activities of the CRMEP were judged 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent', with 25% of its outputs for REF2014 judged 'world-leading'.

Our research areas include:

  • modern European philosophy from the eighteenth century to the present;
  • Kant, Hegel, and German Idealism;
  • Marx and Marxism;
  • Frankfurt School critical theory;
  • philosophies of time and history;
  • critical philosophy of race;
  • conceptions of trans-disciplinarity;
  • aesthetics, art theory and cultural theory;
  • philosophical and political approaches to contemporary art;
  • philosophy and the visual arts;
  • recent and contemporary French philosophy;
  • recent Italian political philosophy;
  • globalisation, post-colonial theory, contemporary politics;
  • revolutionary political theory;
  • contemporary philosophies of sex and gender;
  • feminist philosophy; and
  • philosophical approaches to psychoanalysis.