Credit points


Campus offering

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Unit rationale, description and aim

For all the promise modern thought has proposed – from universal human rights to a more egalitarian and democratic society – there has been as much destruction (Hiroshima and Auschwitz) and domination (capitalism and fascism). The horrific violences of ‘modern’ life are enough to make us wonder, is there an other or an after to modernity?

This unit will investigate the questions above by uncovering postmodern thought and considering theoretical, philosophical, and literary movements within postmodernity. We will explore what might have to change in modern thinking, language, politics, and ethics in order to imagine the afterlife of the modern.  In this way, students will encounter the tensions and complexity involved in the postmodern project.

After Modernity aims to develop an understanding of key concepts and debates of postmodern thought. The unit will also engage seriously with the reality of post-colonial subjects, including the historical, cultural, and political predicaments faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In so doing, this unit should assist students in their critical reflections on the complexity of their contemporary world and whether they are already in the after-modern.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Articulate an advanced, integrated, research-based knowledge of Postmodern thought together with the conceptual, theoretical, and political impacts of texts drawn from, and related to Postmodernist Philosophy, Theory, and Literature (GA2, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Explain the literary, social, historical, philosophical, political, aesthetic, religious, and/or ethical implications of texts drawn from, and related to Postmodernity (GA1, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Critically evaluate and synthesise knowledge, concepts, and theories connected to modernity from diverse sources and communicate complex ideas and findings with sophistication and confidence to a range of audiences in diverse contexts (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO4 - Research, develop, and apply disciplinary theories and practices to a range of bodies of knowledge drawn from key texts in Postmodern Western Thought (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics and/or texts may include:

  • Critiques of Reason
  • New theories of hermeneutics (including discourse, deconstruction, and immanent critique) 
  • Ideology and anti-ideology
  • Representations
  • Reconsiderations of speed, time, and place
  • The idea of ‘post’ or ‘after’
  • Comparison of modernity and postmodernity, especially considering critiques of philosophical, literary, social, economic, and political frameworks
  • Examination of Postmodern political theory, which may include the ideas of such thinkers as Derrida, Lyotard, and Nancy, amongst others
  • The origins of Critical Theory
  • Critical reflection on postmodern society, which may include the thinking of Heidegger, Benjamin, Adorno, and Deleuze amongst others
  • Study of Literary expressions of postmodern life, which may include the works of Beckett, Pynchon, DeLillo, and Wallace, amongst others
  • Post-colonial history, politics, culture, and society, including in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • The place of Indigenous knowings in postmodern and postcolonial thought.
  • Changing perspectives on human responsibility toward the environment and society
  • Changing perspectives on human responsibility toward the common good

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is designed and delivered in a small-group face-to-face mode which facilitates the use of the Socratic method. It will immerse students in active learning through cooperative dialogue designed to stimulate critical thinking and challenge pre-existing assumptions. Learning exercises will help to develop skills fundamental to a variety of disciplines and facilitate the interaction of students with guest speakers, when available. In addition to close reading of a range of philosophical texts, novels, essays, and art objects, students will participate in writing activities, interpreting and evaluating texts, and critical and argumentative debates.

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support learning such as reading, reflection, and discussion.

Assessment strategy and rationale

This 600-level unit is designed to include assessment tasks that build content knowledge and higher-order research and analytic skills. 

The close reading task requires students to demonstrate a capacity to apply considered critical responses to cultural texts in the Western canon.

The research essay develops skills in locating and evaluating sources on a cultural text, developing a sustained evidence-based argument, and active engagement with key theory debates. The essay will be based on a topic proposed in consultation with the instructor.

The assessment tasks for this unit have been designed to contribute to high-quality student learning by both helping students learn (assessment for learning), and by measuring explicit evidence of their learning (assessment of learning). Assessments have been developed to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. These have been designed so that they use a variety of tasks to measure the different learning outcomes at a level suitable for graduate studies in the subject area.

Minimum Achievement Standards

The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome. In order to pass this unit, students are required to submit all assessment tasks, meet the learning outcomes of the unit and achieve a minimum overall passing grade of 50%.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Close reading: challenging disciplinary norms

This task requires students to produce analyses that challenge disciplinary norms.


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9

Assessment Task 2: Research Essay

This task requires students to produce a theoretically acute, graduate-level, interdisciplinary analysis of key texts or authors in Postmodern thought, on a topic proposed in consultation with the instructor.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Adorno, T., and M. Horkheimer, The Dialectic of Enlightenment (London: Continuum Press, 1986)

Benjamin, Walter, ‘Critique of Violence’, in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, and Autobiographical Writings (New York: Mariner Books, 2018)

Broome, Richard, Aboriginal Australians: A History Since 1788 (NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2019)

Eve, Martin Paul, Digital Humanities and Literary Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2022)

Foucault, Michel, Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984 (New York: Penguin, 2020)

Grenville, Kate, The Secret River (Melbourne: Text Publishing 2005)

Harvey, David, The Condition of Postmodernity (Oxford: Blackwell,1989)

Mbembe, Achille, The Critique of Black Reason, trans. by Laurent Dubois (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017)

Spivak, Gayatri, A Critique of Post-Colonial Reason (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999)

O’Reilly, Nathanael, Postcolonial Issues in Australian Literature (Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2010.

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