General Information

The Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory is an interdisciplinary program developed within the Graduate College and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since 1981, the Unit has been at the forefront of scholarly discussion and debate about topics such as poststructuralism, cultural studies, Marxism, feminism, postcolonial theory, and the politics of disciplinarity and knowledge production. Books derived from Unit conferences, such as Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture and Cultural Studies, have become landmarks of critical discourse in the academy.

Drawing upon the expertise and resources of twenty six humanities and social sciences departments, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory promotes a broad range of teaching, research, and related scholarly activities. Through a variety of programs—including regular theory seminars for faculty and graduate students, lectures and roundtables; visits to campus by distinguished scholars from other universities; agenda-setting conferences; designated courses; writing groups; and our weblog Kritik—the Unit provides students and faculty with interdisciplinary vantage points for their teaching and research. Open to scholars with diverse area, period, and methodological interests, the Unit seeks to enhance awareness of the theoretical premises underlying critical practices across the humanities and social sciences, and to provide fora in which competing theoretical claims can be articulated and discussed. Each semester, the Unit sponsors a series of activities that focuses in depth on a particular theme. Recent themes have included Modernities, New Approaches to African-American Literature and Culture, the Cultural Politics of Neoliberalism, New Materialisms, and Feminist Futures. The Unit is designed to serve beginning graduate students who want a broad grounding in interpretive theory as well as advanced students with well-defined research interests. Unit-affiliated students are eligible to apply for conference travel support, fellowships to the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University, and to participate in all Unit activities, including a yearly series of lectures on Modern Critical Theory. To graduate students enrolled in M.A. or Ph.D. programs in participating departments, the Unit also offers a formal program leading to advanced certification in criticism and interpretive theory. Students who would like to pursue certification should consult the requirements listed on the Unit website and should set up an appointment to talk with the Unit director.


Participating Departments

Art and Design
Art History
Comparative and World Literatures
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Education Policy, Organization & Leadership
Gender and Women's Studies
Institute of Communications Research
Library and Information Science
Media and Cinema Studies
Political Science
Religious Studies
Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese


Books and special issues derived from Unit conferences


Mad World: Sex, Politics, Style and the 1960s (2013)
Edited by Lauren M. E. Goodlad, Lilya Kaganovsky, and
Robert A. Rushing

Special issue Interventions: International Journal of Postocolonial Studies:
"Between Subalternity and Indigeneity" (2011)
Edited by Jodi A. Byrd and Michael Rothberg
States of Welfare poster Comparative Human Rights
Special issue Occasion:
"States of Welfare" (2011)
Edited by Lauren M. E. Goodlad, Bruce Robbins, and Michael Rothberg
Special issue Journal of Human Rights:
"Comparative Human Rights: Literature, Art, Politics" (2010),
Edited by Eleni Coundouriotis and Lauren M. E. Goodlad
Cary Nelson and the Struggle for the University Postcolonial Studies and Beyond
Cary Nelson and the Struggle for the University: Poetry, Politics, and the Profession (2009),
edited by Michael Rothberg and Peter K. Garrett.
Postcolonial Studies and Beyond (2005),
edited by Ania Loomba, Suvir Kaul, Matti Bunzl, Antoinette Burton, and Jed Esty
Disciplinarity at the Fin de Siecle Disciplinarity and Dissent
Disciplinarity at the Fin de Siecle (2001),
edited by Amanda Anderson and Joseph Valente
Disciplinarity and Dissent in Cultural Studies (1996),
edited by Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar and Cary Nelson
Higher Education Under Fire Cultural Studies
Higher Education Under Fire: Politics, Economics, and the Crisis of the Humanities (1994),
edited by Michael Berube and Cary Nelson
Cultural Studies (1991),
edited by Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula Treichler
Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture  
Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (1988),
edited by Lawrence Grossberg and Cary Nelson