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

2018/9 Module description

StaffDr Paul Williams - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 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). You 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 organisation of social life. It is advantageous for you 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) signalled 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, naturalised 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 deterritorialised 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 theoretical concepts and to relate their concerns and their modes of expression to 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, organisation, and expression of ideas under pressure of time

Syllabus plan

Around half of this module builds on theoretical schools introduced on the first-year module Approaches to Criticism and the other half considers newer bodies of critical theory that have come to prominence this century. As such, students can expect to encounter classic twentieth-century theorists of stressed/reconfigured selfhood, as well as weeks on biopower, intersectional feminism, queer theory, globalisation and world literary production, world-ecology, object agency, animal theory, political formations, and digital humanities.

Theorists studied on the course may include Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Lauren Berlant, Christina Sharpe, Lee Edelman, Maggie Nelson, Pascale Casanova, Jane Bennett, Jacques Derrida, Donna J. Haraway, Jacques Rancière, and N.Katherine Hayles; this is not an exclusive list and other critics are likely to be set as course reading.

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 teaching11Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching27.511 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
Essay plan750 words1-11Peer-assessed in seminar, with opportunity for office hours 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
Examination452 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
ExaminationExamination1-7, 9-11Referral/Deferral period
Seminar participationRepeat study or Mitigation 1-8, 10-11Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

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

  • Printing out a copy from the ELE
  • Having a copy of the reading on a tablet or laptop
  • Borrowing the source texts from the Library
  • Buying a module Reading Pack from the Print Unit

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

A selection of ebooks and scanned chapters are available via the ELE and the University of Exeter Library Catalogue webpage.

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

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

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