Once again I have been wrestling with the difficulties of a module designed to introduce students to critical theory. This is particularly difficult on the degree course I teach, because English only constitutes 50% of the course - so however I try to fit critical theory in, it needs to be done effectively enough so that students have a confident grasp of it before they hit their final year, where an understanding of the relationships between text and theory become pre-supposed.
I have been trying to grapple with this challenge for many years now, and have variously gone through phases of:
- questioning the value of critical theory altogether, and asking whether we really need it? (I eventually came to the conclusion that we do).
- embedding critical theory in modules, rather than having a dedicated standalone module (but this led to repetition and confusion).
- trying to crow-bar critical thinking into Research Methods modules, as a research method (a nice idea but proved impractical).
I have mucked about endlessly with the mode of delivery of the module - exploring whether to apply different critical theories to a single text, or each theory to multiple texts.
Here, then, is the latest in my eternal quest for the golden bullet of critical theory teaching. It involves thinking about delivery and assessment as synchronous processes which build gradually in depth and complexity.