Critical Theory

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Designated Emphasis (DE) in Critical Theory enables graduate students already enrolled in UC Berkeley PhD programs from across the social sciences, arts, and humanities to obtain certification of a Designated Emphasis specialization in Critical Theory. (The DE is not an independent degree-granting program.) Students admitted to the DE who complete its requirements will receive a parenthetical notation to that effect on their doctoral degrees. The program offers graduate fellowships, hosts international scholars, and presents lectures, seminars, and other events for the wider campus community and local public. Critical Theory also maintains important collaborative relations with other critical theory institutes and programs nationally and internationally.

Critical theory is often associated with the Frankfurt School, a group of intellectuals who, starting in the 1920s, developed critiques of modern capitalist society, fascism, and the new global dispensations that followed in the aftermath of World War II. In doing so, the Frankfurt School constructed modes of social theory distinct from established forms of philosophy. But key modern concepts of critique had already emerged in various forms in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the works of Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx, and others. Critique has assumed historically distinct modalities across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as well.

The Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory offers courses on the nineteenth-century notion of critique; on the Frankfurt School and other twentieth-century currents of critical theory and philosophy; and on contemporary forms and modes of critical theory, including critical race theory, postcolonialist theory, feminist critique, gender studies and queer theory, and the diverse approaches to critique arising with and after structuralism and postructuralism. The program emphasizes the centrality of theoretical critique in the examination of contemporary values, of the power relations that constrain and enable political, social, cultural and economic life, and of the modes of justification that legitimate historical and cultural inquiry and sociopolitical analysis.

The DE student community comprises approximately 100 graduate students enrolled in a wide range of established PhD programs across the humanities and social sciences at UC Berkeley.

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Admissions

Only students enrolled in PhD programs at Berkeley are eligible to apply for the DE in Critical Theory. Students must apply in the first or second year of graduate study in order to fulfill the requirements of the DE in addition to those of their home departments.

Petitions for admission to the DE are accepted each spring for admission to the program fall. The DE in Critical Theory admits approximately 15 students each year. Petitions and due dates are available on the program’s website.

For further information regarding admission to graduate programs at UC Berkeley, please see the Graduate Division's Admissions website.

Designated Emphasis Requirements

Curriculum/Coursework

CRIT TH 200Critique in 19th-Century Thought4
CRIT TH 205The Classical Frankfurt School: The First Generation of Critical Theory4
CRIT TH 240Contemporary Critique and Critical Theory4
Two Electives, selected from a list of courses offered by DE faculty, including CRIT TH 290

Qualifying Exam

One of the members of the student’s qualifying examination committee must represent the DE in Critical Theory and be a member of the DE’s designated faculty. These faculty members may be outside or inside members of the student’s committees.

Dissertation

One of the members of the student’s qualifying dissertation committee must represent the DE in Critical Theory and be a member of the DE’s designated faculty. These faculty members may be outside or inside members of the student’s committees.

Degree Conferral

Upon successful completion of the dissertation, the student’s transcript will include the designation: “PhD in [major] with a Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory.” This designation certified that she or he has participated in, and successfully completed, a Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory in addition to all departmental requirements for the doctorate.

Research Resources

A full annual calendar of lectures, colloquia, and conferences contributes to Critical Theory’s rich research environment. Ongoing participation of international visiting scholars and researchers as well as student-led working and writing groups facilitate dialogue and build community across academic disciplines.

With adequate funding, the Program in Critical Theory awards a yearly dissertation fellowship to Critical Theory DE students with records of achievement and promising dissertation projects. The annual fellowship is open to Critical Theory students in UC Berkeley departments including Anthropology, Boalt Law School, Comparative Literature, East Asian Languages and Cultures, English, Ethnic Studies, Film and Media, French, Gender and Women’s Studies, German, Geography, History, History of Art, Italian, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Rhetoric, School of Education, School of Public Health, Sociology, Spanish and Portuguese, and Theater, Dance and Performance Studies. The fellowship supports dissertating students with up to $36,000 toward a stipend, fees, and summer funds.

Courses

Critical Theory

CRIT TH 200 Critique in 19th-Century Thought 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2018, Spring 2017, Fall 2015
This course will examine various formulations of critique in 19th-century theory. Thinkers who may be studied include Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Weber, though the selection will vary by instructor. This is the "foundations" course for the Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory.

Critique in 19th-Century Thought: Read More [+]

CRIT TH 205 The Classical Frankfurt School: The First Generation of Critical Theory 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2016, Fall 2015, Spring 2015
This course will explore the founding texts of the Frankfurt School's first generation: Horkheimer, Adorno, Benjamin, Marcuse, Lowenthal, and their circle. It will follow the development of critical theory through its Weimar years, American exile, and return to postwar Germany.

The Classical Frankfurt School: The First Generation of Critical Theory: Read More [+]

CRIT TH 240 Contemporary Critique and Critical Theory 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2017, Fall 2016, Spring 2016
This course will explore various contemporary engagements with the foundations of critical theory in relation to other histories and locations. Topics will vary by instructor but may include: post-continental political theory, critique and the problem of political dissent and citizenship, gender and race in relation to critical practices, psychoanalysis, and literary and art theory and criticism.

Contemporary Critique and Critical Theory: Read More [+]

CRIT TH 290 Critical Theory Elective 2 - 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2018, Fall 2016, Spring 2016
Critical Theory electives are taught by core and affiliated faculty in the Critical Theory program and offer important treatments of theoretical materials significant to the intellectual traditions of the program's course of study in nineteenth-century social theory and philosophy, Frankfurt School and related currents in theory and criticism, and contemporary critical theory. In a typical Critical Theory elective, theoretical materials are
presented in dialogue with an anthropological, artistic/aesthetic, economic, educational, historical, philosophical, political, rhetorical, sociological, or other disciplinary matrix that constitutes the course's primary materials for study and inquiry.
Critical Theory Elective: Read More [+]

CRIT TH 298 Critical Theory Special Study 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2017, Spring 2016
Advanced study in interpretive approaches within the field of critical theory, focusing on the question of how critical theory enters into the framing of a long-term research project. We will consider the status and limits of theory, the relation between literary and social theory, reading practices, and archival research.

Critical Theory Special Study: Read More [+]

Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.

Faculty

+ Elizabeth Abel, Professor. Feminist theory, psychoanalysis, Virginia Woolf, race and gender.
Research Profile

Charles F. Altieri, Professor. Literature and the visual arts, Wittgenstein, Modern American poetry, Contemporary American poetry, history of aesthetic philosophy.
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Dan Blanton, Associate Professor. Modernism, modern poetry, 19th- and 20th-century British literature, aesthetic and critical theory.
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Natalia Brizuela, Associate Professor. Spanish, Portuguese.
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+ Wendy L. Brown, Professor. Feminist theory, critical theory, theories of neoliberalism, public higher education, nineteenth and twentieth century political theory.
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Julia Q. Bryan-Wilson, Associate Professor. Contemporary art, feminist theory, queer theory.
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+ Michael Burawoy, Professor. Sociology, Russia, capitalism, industrial workplaces, postcolonialism, socialism, global ethnography, Hungary.
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Judith Butler, Professor. Critical theory, gender and sexuality studies, comparative literature, 19th and 20th century continental philosophy, social and political thought, philosophy and literature.
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Anthony J. Cascardi, Professor. English, comparative literature, literature, Spanish, Portuguese, philosophy, aesthetics, early modern literature, French, Spanish Baroque.
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Lawrence Cohen, Professor. Social cultural anthropology, medical and psychiatric anthropology, critical gerontology, lesbian and gay studies, feminist and queer theory.
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Eglantine L. Colon, Assistant Professor.

Marianne Constable, Professor. Law and language, legal rhetoric and philosophy, social and political thought, Anglo-American legal history, Continental philosophy, law and society.
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Raul Coronado, Associate Professor.

Whitney Davis, Professor.

Ivonne Del Valle, Associate Professor. Colonial period in Mexico, internal colonialism in Mexico, Jesuits (Loyola, Acosta, Baegert), Baroque and Enlightenment from a colonial perspective, technology and environment, drainage of Mexico City lakes, Christianity and Pre-Hispanic religions.
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Mary Ann Doane, Professor. Feminist theory, semiotics, cinema, media, cultural theory, archaeology of media technology, poststructuralism.
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Samera Esmeir, Associate Professor. Critical theory, Middle Eastern Studies, Legal and political thought, law and society, legal histories, colonialism and post-colonialism.
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Karen Feldman, Associate Professor. Critical theory, aesthetics, literary theory, Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Arendt, Benjamin, 18th-20th century German thought, Hegel, Adorno.
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Keith Feldman, Assistant Professor. Critical theory, US cultural studies, Israel-Palestine, theories of race and ethnicity, comparative diaspora studies, public humanities.
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Catherine Flynn, Assistant Professor. Modernism, Irish, British, comparative literature, critical theory, Avant-Gardes, James Joyce, Flann O'Brien.
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Anne-Lise Francois, Associate Professor. Popular culture, English, comparative literature, the modern period, comparative romanticisms; lyric poetry; the psychological novel, novel of manners; gender, critical theory; literature, philosophy; fashion.
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Deniz Gokturk, Associate Professor. German literature, German cinema, transnational cinemas, German-Turkish-European-American intersections in cinema, performance and spectatorship and reception, intertextuality and intermediality and translation, the politics and poetics of migration and globalization, urban imaginaries and mediations of place, theories of diversity and nationalism, comedy and community, modern rituals of regulating identity and authority and mobility.
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Marcial Gonzalez, Associate Professor. Chicano and Chicana literature, twentieth-century American ethnic literatures, theory of the novel, marxism, critical theory, farm worker social movements.
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Suzanne Guerlac, Professor. Nationalism, literature, philosophy, 19th- and 20th-century literature, myths of literature and theory, contemporary cultural criticism.
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Jocelyne Guilbault, Professor. Cultural politics, Caribbean, popular and traditional musics, nation, diaspora, cultural entrepreneurship.
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Charles Hirschkind, Associate Professor. Islam, anthropology, religious practice, media technologies, political community, Middle East, Europe.
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Seth M. Holmes, Assistant Professor. Immigration and migration, medical anthropology with foci on social theory and ethnography, social studies of medicine and science, social difference related to race, social difference related to socioeconomic status, social difference related to citizenship, social difference related to gender, social difference related to sexuality, the naturalization and normalization of social hierarchies and health disparities, social suffering and symbolic violence, urban and rural Latin America and North America, population health with focus on global health, population health with focus on health disparities, population health with focus on social determinants of health.
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Shannon Jackson, Professor. Rhetoric, performance studies, American studies, 20th century art movements and critical theory, local culture and intercultural citizenship in turn-of-the-century United States, history and theory of theatre and performance art.
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Abdul R. Janmohamed, Professor. Critical theory; theory of subjection; postcolonial literature, culture, and theory; African American fiction; and minority discourse.
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Martin E. Jay, Affiliated Professor. Rhetoric, history, Marxist theory, European intellectual history, 19th 20th century, visual discourse and culture.
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Donna V. Jones, Associate Professor. Critical theory, English, modernism, literature and philosophy, literature of the Americas, literature of the African Diaspora, postcolonial literature and theory, narrative and historiography.
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Tony Kaes, Professor. Film studies, modern literature, literary and cultural theory, cinema, interdisciplinary and comparative aspects of Weimar culture, contemporary literature and film, literary theory, theory of cultural studies, film history, film theory, history of cinema.
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Robert G. Kaufman, Associate Professor. Modern/contemporary poetry and poetics; aesthetics, literary theory, & history of criticism; Frankfurt School Critical Theory and the arts.
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Celeste Langan, Associate Professor. English, romantic poetry, 19th century literature, Wordsworth, Carlyle, Hardy, Rousseau, the French Revolution, Marxist theory, literature and the social sciences.
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Niklaus Largier, Professor. Religion, literature, German, history of medieval and early modern German literature, theology, mysticism, secularism, senses, sensuality, history of emotions, passions, asceticism, flagellation, sexuality.
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Joseph Lavery, Assistant Professor.

Zeus Leonardo, Professor.

Michael Lucey, Professor. Pragmatics, the novel, sexuality studies, comparative literature, French, French literature, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, British literature and culture, social and literary theory, cultural studies of music, studies of language in use, theories of practice, twentieth-century American literature.
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Colleen Lye, Associate Professor. Postcolonial theory, critical theory, cultural studies, Asian American literature, 20th and 21st century literature, world literature.
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Saba Mahmood, Professor. Religion, secularism, gender, ethics and politics, minorities, Islam, the Middle East, and South Asia.
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Ramona Naddaff, Associate Professor. Rhetoric, aesthetics, theory of the novel, ancient Greek philosophy and literature, history of philosophy, contemporary French thought.
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Maura Bridget Nolan, Associate Professor. Chaucer, drama, Middle English literature, Gower, Lydgate, medieval, 16th century, literary form, style.
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Stefania Pandolfo, Professor. Cultural anthropology, Islam, Middle East, theories of subjectivity, postcolonial criticism, anthropology and literature, the Maghreb, mental illness.
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Diego Pirillo, Associate Professor. Renaissance Europe, History of Books and Reading, history of political thought, History of Historiography.
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James Porter, Professor. Classical Studies, philosophy, critical theory, aesthetics, Nietzsche, Auerbach.
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Paul M. Rabinow, Professor. Cultural anthropology, social thought, modernity, biotechnology, genome mapping, France, Iceland.
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Dylan John Riley, Professor.

Poulomi Saha, Assistant Professor.

Leslie Salzinger, Associate Professor. Political economy, feminist theory, finance, sociology of gender, Gender and Work, gendering of transnational processes.
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+ Debarati Sanyal, Professor. Violence, poetry, the relationship between literary form, politics in 19th-century France, the connection between performance, performativity, ethics in modernist texts.
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Hans Sluga, Affiliated Professor. Political philosophy, recent European philosophy, history of analytic philosophy, Frege, Wittgenstein, Foucault.
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Barbara Spackman, Professor. Feminist theory, psychoanalysis, culture, fascism, gender studies, comparative literature, Italian studies, narrative, European decadence, travel writing.
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Soraya Tlatli, Associate Professor. Francophone literature, colonial and postcolonial studies, literature and psychoanalysis, twentieth-century continental philosophy.
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Christopher Lawrence Tomlins, Professor.

Leti Volpp, Professor. Citizenship, law and culture, identity (especially race and gender), immigration and migration, Asian American studies.
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Loic Wacquant, Professor. Sociology.
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Damon R. Young, Assistant Professor.

Lecturers

Rakesh Bhandari, Lecturer. Classical Social Theory's Images of Asia, The Juridical Aspects of Unfree Labor Relations, The Role of Luxury Consumption in Economic Growth, The Nature and Limits of Keynesian Intervention, The Discourses of Social Darwinism.

Emeritus Faculty

Gillian P. Hart, Professor Emeritus.

+ Francine R. Masiello, Professor Emeritus. Gender theory, culture, globalization, comparative literature, Spanish, Latin American literature of the 19th and 20th centuries, comparative North and South literatures.
Research Profile

Contact Information

The Program in Critical Theory

440 Stephens Hall, MC 2340

Phone: 510-642-1328

Fax: 510-642-2510

critical_theory@berkeley.edu

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Program Co-Director

Suzanne Guerlac, PhD (French)

critical_theory@berkeley.edu

Program Co-Director

C.D. Blanton, PhD (English)

critical_theory@berkeley.edu

Graduate Student Affairs Officer and Program Coordinator

Brandon Schneider

brandonblairschneider@berkeley.edu

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