This is a truly interdisciplinary course that will give you a comprehensive introduction to the critical tradition that shapes today’s human and social sciences, as well as the opportunity to apply theories to contemporary cultural phenomena.
Approaches to issues of representation, identity, power, meaning and ideology include, but also extend beyond, the established British Cultural Studies paradigm.
The course builds on the scholarly relation between the theoretical and applied or practical aspects of research in the humanities, thereby preparing you for theoretically informed research in disciplines beyond cultural studies.
You will be able to draw on the expertise of the teaching team in areas such as literary theory, continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, cultural studies and political theory.
This course will certainly appeal to you if you are a cultural studies or humanities graduate with an interest in further studies that emphasise theoretical approaches while maintaining a focus on their application to cultural events and practices.
- The Centre for Critical Theory is a vibrant and active focus for staff and student research activity both in the university and the broader community, and works very closely with Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery
- We collaborate closely with other centres and institutes such as the Centre for Research in Visual Culture and the Centre for Translation and Comparative Cultural Studies, as well as staff from the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences
- The department is strongly international and offers excellent opportunities for staff, postgraduate students and undergraduate students to benefit from its wide range of international collaborative arrangements
- The School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies provides the perfect environment to learn to apply Cultural Studies approaches to diverse social, cultural and political ‘texts’ and to situate the discipline in the critical tradition upon which it continues to draw
This module consists of the selection, research and writing up of a topic in the field of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies, chosen after consultation with the Course Director and other appropriate staff members.
This is a compulsory core module worth 60 credits.
Aesthetics and Politics
Starting with debates in and around the work of the Frankfurt School before and after World War II, you will explore the links between aesthetics and politics as they have become manifest both within particular social and cultural constellations as well as in the philosophical tradition that informs contemporary critical and cultural theory. The module will trace out: historical connections in discussions of aesthetics and politics - from the 'visual strategies' of Hobbes's Leviathan to contemporary 'shock and awe' and the society of the spectacle; conceptual affiliations and applications (such as Romanticism and the literary absolute, modernist art movements and Bergsonian philosophy, 'ethico-aesthetics' and subjectivity, kitsch and cultural capital); and specific aspects of creative practices - from montage and collage to cutting and pasting, glitch and digital aesthetics - with a view to exploring the complexities of the relationship between theory and practice.
This module is worth 20 credits.
Arts in Society
We will help you to apply your arts MA across society to enhance your career and contribute to wider society.
We'll demonstrate how the arts can be used to:
- transform society, politics and culture
- enhance the careers of arts and humanities MA students.
You'll be able to explore, explain and then detail how your disciplinary skills can impact upon wider issues to emphasise the applicability of the arts and humanities. From the role of the scholar activist to understanding ‘knowledge transfer’ and ‘public engagement’, you'll develop professional skills in preparation for a career within academia or across a range of sectors.
- harness the ways in which the arts and humanities enable us to think differently and to innovate
- work on issues of research, networking, grant-writing and cultural exchange
- learn how to engage, communicate and create.
This module is worth 20 credits.
Arts in Society introductory video
Critical and Cultural Theory Today
You will be introduced to theoretical approaches and debates in the overlapping fields of critical theory and cultural studies. The module has two thematic strands that students will undertake depending on which MA programmes they are registered on. One is a critical theory strand that explores recent theoretical explorations of the link between aesthetics and politics: drawing on material ranging from the Frankfurt School to Jacques Rancière, this strand will help students a) extend and refine their understanding of the Tradition of Critique and b) develop conceptual frameworks to better understand the links between aesthetic experience, forms of sensibility, and the possibilities of social and cultural change. The second strand, taken by students on the MA in Cultural Studies, focuses on cultural studies approaches to material culture and everyday life: as well as introducing students to theorists such as Georg Simmel, Walter Benjamin, and Henri Lefebvre, micrological analyses of specific artefacts will allow students to explore issues of cultural value and the politics of taste and distinction. Both strands will come together for group tutorials in preparation for essay writing and submission.
Theory at Work: Problematising the Present
Drawing on approaches that may include - but are not limited to - media and communication studies, feminism and critical race studies, science and technology studies as well as discourse analysis and political economy, you will put ‘theory to work’ on contemporary themes such as globalization and digital cultures, new media and technology, and social movements and networked activism. Because of the emphasis on applied theory, the module is also intended to serve as preparation for the dissertation module. It includes four additional dissertation workshops covering such topics as: refining a research question, building a theoretical framework, establishing an appropriate methodology, and identifying relevant primary and secondary sources.
Tradition of Critique I
This module introduces you to the key thinkers, themes and debates that constitute the European critical tradition. The module provides a contextual overview of primarily post-Kantian critical philosophy and critical theory mainly in the German tradition of the 19th and 20th Centuries.
It is likely to cover thinkers such as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as well as Heidegger, Adorno and Benjamin. Each thinker will be presented both in terms of their interlocutors and respective historical contexts, and in terms of their subsequent interpretations and uptake in a variety of disciplines and approaches.
Discussion is structured around several overarching themes that have driven critical and philosophical debate. These are likely to include:
- the limits of reason;
- power and knowledge;
- history and historicity;
- the politics of culture.
You will choose one of the two following modules:
Technology and the Transformations of Communication
This module explores the role of technology in: shaping processes of symbolic exchange; the material organisation of cultures; the growth of communication 'power' and subjective capacities for action. The module draws together research in media and communication theory, history and philosophy of technology, geography and the sociology of communication, material cultures. It considers debates about the division between technical and cultural understandings of the world, links between technology and experience, critical appraisals of ideas about network and information society, technological determinism, digital infrastructures and theories of socio-technical organisation.
This module is worth 20 credits.
Tradition of Critique II
This module explores the work of a range of thinkers who have interrogated the work of the philosophers who constitute the “canon” of thinkers schooled in the European critical tradition.
It follows on from and engages with the work explored in Traditions of Critique but the structure of the discussion it presents can be followed without attendance on that module.
Following in its thematic development the exploration of the limits of critique, it revisits the history and geography of critique by offering an introduction to a number of thinkers, from a range of backgrounds, including postcolonial theory, feminism, structuralism and post-structuralism, and considers the variety of ways in which such thinkers have problematised central tenets of European Enlightenment thinking.
The above is a sample of the typical modules that we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. This course page may be updated over the duration of the course, as modules may change due to developments in the curriculum or in the research interests of staff.
Teaching methods and assessment
The teaching on this course is largely seminar based. Seminars are supported by lectures that provide the philosophical background to theorists’ work.
You will typically be assessed through a 3,500 to 5,000 word written assignment for each module.
The dissertation module is assessed by a written work of 12,000 to 15,000 words, which is usually submitted in early September.
Scholarships and bursaries
Securing funding for postgraduate study can be a complicated and competitive process, but there are many opportunities available to support your studies. Our step-by-step guide to funding sets out all of the different stages and avenues to explore.
The Graduate School provides information on university-wide and national sources of postgraduate funding.
Tuition fees and funding may be affected by UK Government policy following the outcome of any negotiations regarding the UK’s exit from the European Union.
Students with a disability, long-term health condition, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty (for example dyslexia) may apply for a Disabled Students’ Allowance.
EU and International students
The UK government has confirmed that EU students who begin full-time courses in 2020/21 will continue to have access to the same fees and funding options as in previous years, for the full duration of their course of study. For information about how the UK’s exit from the European Union could affect EU students studying in Britain, please refer to our Brexit information for future students.
Government loans for masters courses
Masters student loans of up to £10,906 are available for taught and research masters courses. Applicants must ordinarily live in the UK or EU.
International and EU students
Masters scholarships are available for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure you apply for your course with enough time.
We provide guidance on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study. You can also access specific funding opportunities, entry requirements and other resources for students from specific countries.