EAS2090 - Humanities after the Human: Further Adventures in Critical Theory

2016/7 Module description

StaffDr Paul Williams - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value
NQF Level
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

Humanities After the Human considers how critical theory – a constellation of writing that includes philosophy, sociology, political manifesto, and cultural commentary - has decentred the (white, heterosexual, male) human subject as the site of meaning, knowledge, and creativity. This course imagines those yet-to-be-enumerated possibilities that the 'Tyrannosaurus Subjectivity’ of late consumer capitalism cannot see (feel, taste, smell, write, or read). Students will build on concepts introduced in Approaches to Criticism and reflect on the challenges that critical theory poses for the study of literature, the limits of the self, and the organization of social life. It is advantageous for students to be familiar with the material in Approaches, although it is not a prerequisite.

Module aims

Francis Fukuyama once suggested that the spread of Western 'liberal democracy' (the set of beliefs that structure most of what we can say and think) signaled the historical arrival of mankind [sic]. This was supposed to be the final stop or 'London Paddington' of human development. On this module we will take a theoretical journey beyond this point and we might even leave the limits of the city altogether. Interiority, individualism, private property, naturalized partitions -- all these norms render only a tiny fraction of filtered light legible. What happens when the received coordinates of self and world, public and private, mind and body, man and woman, human and non-human are fundamentally deterritorialized and then reassembled akimbo? What happens when familiar myths of being are left behind in favour of new utopian communalities, queer futures, bodies and disfigurement, rhizomatic connections, synth-organic creation-disasters, alt-relationalities, digital humans, and perpetual ecological/non-human becomings of man (Deleuze and Guattari)? 

     These eleven weeks will explore the challenges that twentieth- and twenty-first-century critical theory present to the notion of the sovereign neoliberal self as a parameter of knowledge. Humanities After the Human will provide you with a multiverse of things to think and say about the texts you read and write about.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate an informed appreciation of contemporary theoretical turns and approaches
  • 2. demonstrate an informed critical understanding of similarities across and differences between theoretical texts and approaches.
  • 3. demonstrate a developed ability to apply skills of close reading, editorial judgement, and of comparative analysis
  • 4. demonstrate an informed critical understanding of relevant scholarly work in the field of theory

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. demonstrate an ability to analyse recent theoretical trends and to relate their concerns and its modes of expression to current debates surrounding the development of the humanities
  • 6. demonstrate an ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history
  • 7. demonstrate an ability to apply these theoretical approaches to literary texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. through seminar work and group presentations, demonstrate communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 9. through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 10. through research for seminars and essays, demonstrate proficiency in information retrieval and analysis;
  • 11. through research and writing, demonstrate a capacity to make critical use of secondary material, to question assumptions, and to reflect on their own learning process
  • 12. through sitting their final examination, demonstrate proficiency in the use of memory and in the development, organization, and expression of ideas under pressure of time

Syllabus plan

1. Introduction: ‘The Construction of Interior Man’


2. Cinema, Shock, Consciousness and Modernity


3. New Bodies


4. Intersectional Feminism/Intersectional Gender


5. Queer Futures/ No Futures/ Alt-Futures


6. Planetary Turns


      7. World Ecology


 8. Alt-Agency: Of Things and Animals


      9. The Joy of Political Life


10. Digital Humans


      11. The Big Data


Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities11Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities27.5Seminars: 11 x 2.5 hour seminars
Guided independent study22Study group preparation and meetings
Guided independent study75.5Seminar Preparation (Individual)
Guided independent study164Reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Introduction to Edited Extract500 word introduction/ 500 word edited extract of selected theoretical writing1-7, 9-11Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay452000 words1-7, 9-11Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Exam452 hours1-7, 9-11Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Seminar Participation10Continuous1-8, 10-11Oral feedback from tutor with opportunity for office hours follow-up.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-7, 9-11Referral/deferral period
ExamExam1-7, 9-11Referral/deferral period
Seminar ParticipationRepeat Study or mitigation1-8,10-11Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:


There are no books to buy for Humanities After the Human. All reading will be available as PDFs on the module ELE. Students will be expected to bring a copy of the required reading to the relevant seminars, which could mean:

  1. Printing out a copy from the ELE

  2. Having a copy of the reading on a tablet or laptop

  3. Borrowing the source texts from the Library

  4. Buying a module Reading Pack from the Print Unit



    Secondary Sources:


    Adorno, Theodor W. Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life. London: Verso, 1978.


    Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. London: Pimlico, 1999. Print.


    Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2010. Print.


    Casanova, Pascale. The World Republic of Letters. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2004. Print.


    Halberstam, Judith. In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. New York: New York UP, 2005. Print.


    James, C. L. R. Beyond a Boundary. London: Serpent’s Tail, 2000. Print.


    Ryan, Derek. Animal Theory: A Critical Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2015. Print.


    Williams, Raymond. Keywords. London: Fontana, 1988. Print.


Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Key words search

Critical Theory, Human, Planet, World, Gender, Class, Sexuality, Self, Identity

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