General Information

The Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory is an interdisciplinary program developed within the Graduate College and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since 1981, the Unit has been at the forefront of scholarly discussion and debate about topics such as poststructuralism, cultural studies, Marxism, feminism, postcolonial theory, and the politics of disciplinarity and knowledge production. Books derived from Unit conferences, such as Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture and Cultural Studies, have become landmarks of critical discourse in the academy.

Drawing upon the expertise and resources of twenty six humanities and social sciences departments, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory promotes a broad range of teaching, research, and related scholarly activities. 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; designated courses; writing groups; 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 and social sciences, and to provide fora in which competing theoretical claims can be articulated and discussed. Each semester, the Unit sponsors a series of activities that focuses in depth on a particular theme. Recent themes have included Modernities, New Approaches to African-American Literature and Culture, the Cultural Politics of Neoliberalism, New Materialisms, and Feminist Futures. 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.


Participating Departments

African American Studies
Art and Design
Art History
Asian American Studies
Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies
Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Comparative and World Literatures
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Education Policy, Organization & Leadership
European Union Center
Gender and Women's Studies
Institute of Communications Research
Latina/Latino Studies
Library and Information Science
Media and Cinema Studies
Political Science
Program in Jewish Culture & Society
Religious Studies
Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center
Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese