The Unit for Criticism is an interdisciplinary program developed within the Graduate College and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Since its founding in 1981, the Unit has promoted the study of theory and shaped major debates about poststructuralism, Marxism, cultural studies, feminism, and postcolonial theory. In recent years, the Unit has led inquiry into the non-human turn, new materialisms, subaltern studies and indigeneity, and critical technology studies. Serving as a platform for experiments in theory and interdisciplinarity, the Unit has contributed to the turn in critical theory away from the field’s European origins towards new connectivities in and to the Global South. Books derived from Unit conferences, such as Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture and Cultural Studies, and Postcolonial Studies and Beyond have become landmarks of critical discourse in the academy.
Drawing upon the expertise and resources of thirty six humanities, social sciences, and arts departments, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory promotes a broad range of teaching, research, and related scholarly activities. The strong links to the ethnic studies, gender and women’s studies, and area studies units is one of the distinctive features of the Unit’s vision of critical theory. 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; affiliated courses; 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, social sciences, and arts and to provide fora in which competing theoretical claims can be articulated and tested. Each semester, the Unit sponsors a series of activities that focuses in depth on a particular theme. Recent themes have included Feminist Futures, The Ends of History, and States of Welfare.
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.