Critical Theory Graduate Programs

Interested students can study critical theory at the doctoral degree level. Learn how study in critical theory is offered and explore some of the common courses and admissions requirements for the field.

Graduate programs in critical theory are typically only offered as a graduate certificate or Designated Emphasis (DE) for doctoral students in various liberal arts, social science and humanities programs, but some graduate certificates in critical theory may be open to master's students. Students with this DE generally need a critical theory member on their dissertation committee and qualifying examination committee. Find out more about the DE and its requirements below.

Information for Graduate Degree Programs in Critical Theory

Doctoral students with a DE in Critical Theory typically take at least 4 to 5 courses in critical theory in addition to the coursework for their main doctoral program. Here we discuss some of the common courses for this DE.

Introduction to Critical Theory

Similar to most introductory courses in various subjects, introductory courses in critical theory give students a broad overview of the foundational concepts and practices in the field. Students examine the challenges with literature, media and interpretation. These courses usually involve a lot of readings and/or a final project/paper.

History of Critical Theory

Courses in the history of critical theory may focus on a particular time period or take on a broader examination of the history of the subject. Students may examine how theories in critique developed, as well as basic political and ethical philosophies. These courses typically include many different readings from a variety of thinkers, including Kant, Marx, Derrida, Adorno and more.

Approaches to Critical Theory

Courses that discuss the various approaches to critical theory usually go by a variety of names, but allow students to survey modern critical theory and its foundations. Topics in these courses also vary, but may examine the relationship between critical theory and politics, economics, art, race, gender, psychoanalysis and more. These courses are likely to include class discussions, readings and papers.

Problems in Critical Theory

Courses that examine different problems in critical theory may be presented as elective courses that explore a specific topic or a core critical theory course that focuses on a particular subject. For example, students in these courses may examine the theories and criticisms associated with topics like pragmatism, with perspectives in race, philosophy and more. Students examine the status and limits of theory and may be required to apply critical theory to a research project.

Topics in Critical Theory

The courses discussed above usually serve as core courses for a DE in Critical Theory and are then followed by electives in critical theory that cover a range of topics in critical theory. Typically these courses come from the department of the student's doctoral program, such as art, anthropology, gender studies, philosophy and more. Specific course topics may include, but are not limited to, theories of religion, film theory, feminist theory, theory of translation and social theory.

Common Entrance Requirements

Students wishing to apply to earn a DE in Critical Theory usually need to meet the admissions standards of their particular doctoral degree program and then apply for the DE during the first or second year of their program. Although admissions standards vary based on the particular doctoral degree program, most graduate schools require applicants to fill out the necessary application and submit their official transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Some graduate schools require applicants to hold at least a bachelor's degree and may have an undergraduate minimum GPA requirement of a 3.0 or higher. International students who plan to apply to graduate programs usually need to submit TOEFL or IELTS test scores to demonstrate English proficiency.

Graduate students may pursue a doctoral degree in several different areas and add a DE in Critical Theory. The DE adds some additional coursework to a typical doctoral degree program and trains students in critical thought and critique.

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