Remaking Critical Theory

Research Question

How might we make critical theory accessible and applicable to community college students?

Education in critical theory provides many benefits: it models the critical interpretation of complicated social problems, and imagines how we might solve them. But, critical theory can sometimes be difficult to interpret and appreciate as it often demands substantial historical and cultural knowledge. In response, we designed the Remaking Critical Theory process which synthesizes the seminar format with innovation mangement and studio practices to facilitate transformative, creative engagement with critical theory.


The Remaking Critical Theory Process

Curate Experiences

Curate critical theory readings that engage community interests and represent community diversity.

Identify audiences and opportunities for intervention. Make a list of potential topics and issues. Identify longlist of relevant theoretical works. Consult with collaborators. Curate reading list.

Make Interpretations

Congregate in a seminar format to make interpretations.

Ask questions. Share, improv, and riff interpretations. Relate insights to everday life. Appreciate insights. Theorize how to apply insights.

Make Metaphors

Co-create metaphors to deepen concept coherence.

Identify theoretical concepts. Diverge to create conceptual metaphors and analogies in multiple modes. Force conceptual connections with abstract and minimalist forms. Improv, riff, edit.

Make Zines

Deepen insights through creative, practice-based exploration.

Introduce zines and representative models. Workshop zine making basics. Emphasize value emerges from the intrinsic goodness of the process not the quality or impact of the product. Create rapid prototype zines that express insights and interpretations in creative ways. Identify and further develop promising ideas. Share, critique, edit.

Make Connections

Dissemination zines to celebrate community and creativity. Publish zines. Share broadly. Create experiences. Invite interpretations. Appreciate and champion creativity.

Curate Learnings

Reflect upon experience to formalize insights. Congregate. Co-create responses to the following prompts: what went well? what might we have done differently? what brought us joy? what risks did we take? what will we remember and value about the experience five years from now? what did we learn? how and when will we apply these learnings?

Critical Interpretation is a Creative Activity

We selected Stanley Fish’s “How to Recognize a Poem When You See One” to emphasize critical theory involves interpreting novel things and that interpretation is a creative activity. We sought to facilitiate a meta-conversation about what is critical theory, what is creativty, what is criticality, and what is interpretation, and build foundational knowledge and confidence at the project’s outset.

Stanley Fish

Understanding Systems & Censorship

We selected an excerpt from Judith Butler’s Excitable Speech that theorizes different forms of implict and explict censorship. Our intention was to introduce theorectical knowledge that unpacks how systems censor, and apply this knowledge to facilitate conversations about ‘cancel culture,’ social media, academic freedom, and learning management systems.

Judith Butler

Blackness and Intersectionality

We selected bell hooks’s “Postmodern Blackness” that critiques theories of Blackness from an intersectioinal perspective. hooks critiques of academia, art institutions, and broader society emphasize the unacknowledged diversity of Black experiences and identities. She models how to present dense arguments in an accessiable manner, and provides invaluable knowledge that might enrich students’ critical engagement with Black Lives Matters, intersectionality, and allyship.

bell hooks
Melodie Downey Elisar Haydar

Catching Criticality

An introduction to critical theory featuring omnibus interpretations of Fish, Butler, and hooks.

Catching Criticality
Alex Siklos Wilson Chan

Iteration On Interpretation

A Choose Your Own Adventure Zine

A creative game of divergence and interpretation inspired by critical theory.

Iteration as Interpretation
Martin Gallagher Robyn Miller


An interactive, teen-style magazine that introduces three works of critical theory.


Seeking New Perspectives

Over the course of her career as an artist and professor, Hyein Lee has learned the importance of being exposed to diverse perspectives. Find out how contributing to Remaking Critical Theory transformed how Prof. Lee approaches art and education.

Hyein Lee

Opening Up to New Experiences

Learning to take risks has brought Melodie Downey to a year of fulfilling social, academic, and professional growth. Find out how serving as a Research Assistant for Remaking Critical Theory helped Melodie thrive during lockdown.

Melodie Downey

At the Crossroads of Critical Theory and Creative Practice

With Covid-19 turning the digital age into the virtual age, students and professors everywhere are adjusting to new ways of learning and engaging with education. Amidst this struggle, Dr. Alexander Hollenberg (Professor of Storytelling & Narrativity) wants to introduce new ways of approaching critical theory, content that typically feels “impenetrable”.