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About me

Matthew Charles writes and teaches on critical theories of modern and contemporary culture and education.

I joined the University of Westminster in 2010. I am a Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Critical Theory and Course Leader for the MA in Cultural and Critical Studies.

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 Modernism Between Benjamin and Goethe and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Walter Benjamin, as well as numerous articles and book chapters. I was a member of the editorial collective of the journal Radical Philosophy from 2009 - 2017 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.

Office: Room 509 (309 Regent Street). Phone: +44 (0)20 7911 5000, ext. 68922.


I am a Senior Fellow of The Higher Education Academy. 

I am module leader for the Level 4 modules Keywords in Literary Studies and the English Literature Tutorials, the Level 6 module Issues in Culture, and the Level 7 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 Issues in Culture module aims, through key readings from commentators and critical theorists, to address a range of contemporary social issues - such as the nature of work, surveillance, social media, racism, protest and nationalism - through the lens of recent art, literature and popular culture. 

The Level 7 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 the author of Modernism Between Benjamin and Goethe, which challenges the dominant understanding of Benjamin's philosophy as essentially romantic and proposes that Goethe's classicism provides a counterpoint to the former in his work, arguing that Benjamin's modernist concept of criticism is constituted in the movement between the polarities of romanticism and classicism.

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 special issue of boundary 2 ​on 'Walter Benjamin and Education' (2018), co-editor and contributor to a special issue of Studies in Philosophy and Education on 'Education, In Spite of it All' (2018), and an invited contributor to special issue of Pedagogy, Culture and Society on 'Walter Benjamin, Pedagogy and Childhood' (2017). 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, the University of Sussex, and the Institute of Education, University of London. 

Research Students

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'.


PhD external examiner for Mijael Jimenez (CRMEP, Kingston: 'Experience and the Crisis of Tradition: History, Memory and Practice in the Philosophy of Walter Benjamin') 

PhD internal examiner for Douglas Spencer (Westminster, 'Architectural Deleuzism') and Francis Palmer (Westminster, '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.


For details of all my research outputs, visit my WestminsterResearch profile.