Director's Message

headshot of Professor Ruggles in Delphi 2022

As the new Director of the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory I am delighted to welcome you to the 2022-23 year of lectures, reading groups, symposia, and events. I hope to continue the tradition of thoughtful conversations and scholarship that previous directors, most recently Susan Koshy, have fostered.

A center for humanistic inquiry, the Unit grew out of the collective need for theorization about our work and thinking deeply about the political implications of such theory. If the task was urgent when the Unit was formed four decades ago, it remains so, as the fields of inquiry have changed. Ideas that arose from the margins for the purpose of challenging the supposed neutrality of the center have now become institutionalized such that they invite a new form of dismantling, deconstructing, and decolonizing. We can now look at how radically innovative questions about gender, race, and representation (among others) have produced new questions about the body, the environment, and materiality. These are but some of the ideas that the Unit will explore in the Modern Critical Theory lecture series, held on Tuesday evenings in the fall semester. To encourage stimulating conversations and intellectual community, the MCT lectures will be live and in person this year (please check the calendar for the venues). As always, each lecture will be followed by a student response, posted in Kritik, the Unit’s blog.

In the spring, the Unit is organizing a series of mini-symposia that will look at the arc of humanistic theory and criticism over the past four decades. Each symposium will highlight the ideas of one major theorist, with a Unit-organized reading group prior to each event. The invitation to students and faculty to participate in those groups will come in January.

In organizing the events for 2022-23, the Unit is looking ahead to the following year. Do you have good ideas for speakers and themes? I welcome your suggestions.