Intro to Postgraduate Critical Theory – Professor Patrick ffrench

This blog was written by Professor Patrick ffrench

To introduce myself, I am a Professor in the Department of French and was instrumental in the creation of the MA Critical Theory way back in 1999, when it was called Critical Methodologies. I have designed and taught some of the core modules for the MA. My research and teaching is generally in the area of 20th-century French thought and critical theory. I have a strong interest in psychoanalysis and film-philosophy, You can check out my profile on the KCL internet.  


Since this is the first instance of this blog, I want to start by congratulating you for having been offered a place on the programme and look forward to meeting you next year. These are troubling times, and though it might seem like an abstraction, the resources of critical thinking, especially about war, violence, subjectivity and affect, are always in the background. I firmly believe that Critical Theory is a resource for thinking critically and creatively about the present and its challenges. 


So what is going on now? This week I have been busy engaging with current MA Critical Theory students about their potential dissertation topics, – since it is the time of the year in which students submit a brief description of their topic for approval – and it is very exciting to learn how many different and interesting perspectives are emerging. Things will become clearer next week once the topic submission deadline has passed, but so far those who have approached me, at least, will be dealing, predictably, with topics I have some expertise in, such as theories of the image in French critical theory post-1968, or the question of being in Heidegger and Blanchot. We will see how this develops! 


I am also excited about specifying some of the readings for next year’s ‘Foundational Texts in Critical Theory’ module. This will be the first time we have taught this module as such, and the boldness of the title is itself a challenge. What makes a text foundational? Issues already surrounding canonicity and the inevitably patriarchal nature of what goes for ‘foundational’ are coming up. But I am glad to say we have introduced Fanon, Said and Preciado into the module, so whilst we will be engaging with the famously bearded authorities Freud and Marx, we will also be re-thinking the ‘foundation’ as such. 


Aside from this, I am co-teaching the ‘Text: Image, Object, Gesture’ module, and with teaching, tomorrow, Georges Bataille’s frankly weird transgressive morphology of the human body. I really want to bear witness to the fantastic group of students, 20 or so of them, in the class. Each week I am invigorated by the contributions in class, and the different angles and investments in play. It really makes teaching into a research and a collective exercise, which is what counts for me.   

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