Psychology in Postmodern Perspective: 

Critical Reflections on Modernity & Social Science

Course Description

To what extent have we ‘left modernity behind’? To what extent does a social science discipline like psychology remain wrapped up in a modern self-understanding? To what extent is this necessary? Salutary? Problematic? These sorts of critical questions lie at the center of this independent study seminar. Introductory considerations as articulated by George Steiner in Nostalgia for the absolute, who situates modernity in the context of the demise of tradition and institutionalized religion, and the social sciences as modern myths, set the stage. The focus of our study will be the work of Michel Foucault, using his work Discipline & punish as representative. Postmodern themes such as the demise of ‘Grand Narratives’, the relation of knowledge to power, embodiment, domination/exclusion, and the critique of social science expertise, will be raised & discussed.

As an independent reading course, students are expected to conduct extensive reading and research independently. The central outcome of the course will be one major research paper of either conference-level presentation quality or journal-submittable quality. Evaluation will be based on students’ proof of comprehension and depth of the reading material (response papers) and on the course-long development of a research thesis (submission of topic, of rough draft, of the finished paper). 

Required Texts:

Foucault, M. (1979). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. Trans. by A. Sheridan. New York: Vintage. (Original work published 1975.)

Steiner, G. (1997). Nostalgia for the absolute. Concord, ON: Anansi. (Original work published 1974.)

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