Dr Matthew Charles
Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Critical Theory
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Matthew Charles writes and teaches on critical theories of modern and contemporary culture and education.
I joined the University of Westminster in 2010 and I am currently a Lecturer in Literature and Critical Theory, Course Leader for the MA in Cultural and Critical Studies, and Module Leader for the Keywords and Level 4 English Literature Tutorials.
My background is in Philosophy and Literature, which I studied at the University of Warwick (BA Hons., first class, 2000; MA, 2001) and at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, where I was awarded a scholarship to pursue doctoral research on Walter Benjamin and Goethe (2009). Before coming to Westminster I taught at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP, Kingston University) and Middlesex University.
I am author of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Walter Benjamin. I have been a member of the editorial collective of the journal Radical Philosophy since 2009 and I am on the advisory board of the London Journal of Critical Thought. I am co-organizer of the Higher Education and Theory network (HEAT), established in 2013.
I currently teach undergraduate modules on 'Keywords for Literary Study', 'Cultural Criticism: the Popular and the Everyday', 'Modernism and the Early Twentieth Century' and the postgraduate module 'Capitalism and Culture'.
The Level 4 Keywords for Literary Study module uses a series of "keywords" to introduce students to a range of methodological and theoretical ways of approaching literary texts, from 'Ambiguity' to the 'Unconscious'.
The Level 6 Cultural Criticism module asks deeper theoretical questions about what culture is and why different answers to this question entail differing ways of engaging with cultural works. It encourages students to engage in cultural criticism of particular works from 'high culture' as well as 'mass', 'popular', and 'everyday' forms of culture.
The Level 6 Modernism module examines the emergence of the modernist movement in literature in the context of broader avant-garde experimentation in painting, theatre, and film and against the backdrop of the urbanisation, globalisation, and technological revolutions brought about by modernity.
The MA module on Capitalism and Culture is premised on the belief that imperative for any comprehension of culture today is an understanding of key theoretical concepts related to capitalism. The modules begins with a consideration of the fetishism of the commodity in relation to mass cultural and consumption in the late 19th and early 20th century through the theories of Marx and members of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, before turning to questions regarding of the general intellect and immaterial labour emerging from Marx's Fragment on Machines and Italian Marxism.
In 2013, I co-founded the Higher Education and Theory (HEAT) network, based in the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture at the University of Westminster.
My primary area of research concerns Frankfurt School Critical Theory and in particular the philosophy of Walter Benjamin. This is connected to two central areas of interest in my work related to modern and contemporary culture: the construction of a critical theory of education and the philosophy of time and history expressed in modern and contemporary literature and art; the two interconnect in ideas about cultural transmission through education.
I am co-author of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Walter Benjamin. My doctoral thesis, 'Speculative Experience and History' was supervised by Peter Osborne and Stewart Martin and examined by Andrew Benjamin and Eric Alliez, and examined the intellectual relationship between Benjamin and Goethe.
In 2010, while teaching in the philosophy department at Middlesex University, I was involved in the international protests against its closure, and began research on the theory, history, and politics of education and pedagogy. This lead me to investigate the often unrecognized pedagogical essence of Walter Benjamin's work and of the necessity for contemporary critical theory to turn its attention more directly to the current crisis of education. I argue that this contemporary afterlife for Walter Benjamin's work provides the seeds of a critical theory of mass education.
In the context of this research, I am co-editor (with Howard Eiland) and a contributor for a forthcoming special issue of boundary 2 on 'Walter Benjamin and Education', co-editor and contributor to a forthcoming special issue of Studies in Philosophy and Education on 'Education, In Spite of it All', and an invited contributor to special issue of Pedagogy, Culture and Society on 'Walter Benjamin, Pedagogy and Childhood'. I have contributed a chapter to Pedagogies of Disaster (Punctum, 2013), as well as numerous articles, commentaries, and reviews on educational issues in Radical Philosophy. I have also published on Goethe and film, post-Jungian criticism, utopian studies, and the ruins of Hiroshima's Genbanku Dome.
I organized and contributed to the panel on 'Pedagogization' for the Radical Philosophy 2015 conference in Berlin, the international conference on 'Walter Benjamin, Pedagogy and the Politics of Youth' (IMCC/CRMEP 2013), and the streams on 'Critical Theory and Education' for the International Critical Theory Conference of Rome and on 'Critical Education and Radical Pedagogy' and for the London Conference in Critical Thought in 2012. I have been invited as the keynote speaker to Lancaster University's 'Fragments of Time: Culture and Social Change' conference, and an invited speaker at the University of York, the University of Brighton, and the University of Sussex.
I welcome PhD applications from students wishing to pursue graduate research on critical theory, the European and Russian avant-garde, or theoretical aspects of modern and contemporary culture and education.
I am currently second supervisor to Daniel Cartwright, whose doctoral research is on 'The Oulipo and Philosophy'.
I have been internal examiner to PhDs by Douglas Spencer ('Architectural Deleuzism') and Francis Palmer ('Style and Mimesis in the Name of Walter Benjamin')
I am currently external examiner for MAs in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies, Critical Theory and Politics, and Cultural Studies at the University of Nottingham.