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Unit information: From Structuralism to Post-structuralism in 2020/21

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Unit name From Structuralism to Post-structuralism
Unit code SOCIM0029
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Tsilipakos
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The various forms and developments of structuralist thought, broadly conceived, constitute one of the most fruitful and influential intellectual traditions within the social sciences, one which is indispensable to contemporary students of sociology and politics. This unit will trace the development of this tradition chronologically, from its structuralist origins in Ferdinand de Saussure’s linguistics to contemporary forms of post-structuralist thought such as those of Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. The unit emphasises thematic coherence, detailed exposition and close logical organisation. Via this approach, students will grasp the step-wise transitions from each thinker to the next and the ways in which each new generation of scholars sought to apply and build upon but also critique and re-orientate the work of their predecessors. During this process, there will be revealed a wealth of connections within the entire tradition that will provide a context of mutual explication and elucidation between thinkers who are commonly thought of as being difficult to understand and who, otherwise, might remain obscure and inaccessible to students.

The aims of the unit are:

  1. To provide students with a sophisticated and comprehensive exposition of the (post-)structuralist tradition
  2. To develop students’ critical insight into concepts and arguments put forth by (post-)structuralist thinkers
  3. To detail the complex relationships between various authors within the tradition
  4. To enable students to evaluate contemporary research that draws on (post-)structuralist ideas as well as apply these ideas to their own work

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, demonstrated via the unit assessment, students will be able to:

  1. Explicate and illustrate key concepts and claims in (post-)structuralist thought
  2. Critically evaluate concepts and arguments put forth by (post-)structuralist thinkers
  3. Compare and contrast authors within the tradition, clarifying complex relationships
  4. Produce a detailed assessment of contemporary research that draws on (post-)structuralist ideas

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: 1000 word essay

The 1000 word formative essay will focus on provision of feedback from the unit owner on the extent to which students have demonstrated an ability to meet Learning Outcome 1 of the unit, an indispensable prerequisite for building towards the other learning outcomes, with suggestions for further improvement.

Summative assessment: 4000 word essay (100%)

The summative essay will allow for assessment of students' ability to meet the Learning Outcomes 1-4, detailed below, by requiring students to develop an in-depth essay over a length of 4000 words.

Reading and References

  • Saussure, Ferdinand de (1974). Course in General Linguistics. Excerpts: Introduction: Chapter 3 (pp. 7-15), Part I: Chapter 1 (pp. 65-71), Part II: Chapter 4 (pp. 111-120)
  • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. (1955) "The structural study of myth." The Journal of American Folklore 68.270: 428-444.
  • Louis Althusser, ‘Ideology and ideological state apparatuses’ in Lenin and Philosophy London: New Left Books, 1971, pp. 127-186.
  • Nietzsche, Friedrich. 'On the Genealogy of Morality and Other Writings. Student Edition. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Foucault, M. (1979) Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison, London: Penguin.
  • Foucault, M. (1980) ‘Right of Death and Power over Life’, in The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction, London: Penguin.
  • Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble, second edition, London: Routledge.
  • Harland, R. (2013) Superstructuralism. Routledge.
  • Cuff, E.C., Francis, D.W. and Sharrock, W.W. (2016) Perspectives in Sociology, 6th edition. Routledge.(ch9 on Structuralism, ch10 on Poststructuralism, ch11 on Foucault, ch12 on Derrida)