Centre for Continuing Education

Philosophy Course: An Introduction to Postmodernism - Foucault and Derrida

Philosophy. Study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

‘Postmodernism’ often elicits polarised reactions, sometimes based on presumptions about its central ideas. This course aims to redress some of the misunderstandings surrounding Postmodernism, by giving an in depth introduction to two of its most prominent philosophers. I will argue that both Foucault and Derrida give an analysis of political power and its institutions, which are crucial to understanding the world we now live in.

We will also study concepts such as: ‘bio-power’; ‘technologies of the self’; ‘surveillance’; ‘deconstruction’; and ‘logocentrism’.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • identify the key concepts in Postmodernism
  • discuss and relate Postmodernism to the ideas of Foucault and Derrida
  • relate postmodern ideas to our contemporary world and current issues
  • apply these ideas to their personal lives and choices.



What is Postmodernism, sorting out fact from fable.


The construction of the subject through power and knowledge.


How do political and cultural institutions use the human body, with its capacities and limitations, to its own ends?

Technologies of the self

What is Foucault’s (limited) ‘solution’ to the problems of oppressive power?

What is enlightenment?

We will explore Foucault’s relationship to the history of philosophy, and we will also consider his use of ‘history’ as philosophy.


Derrida has become a cultural figure, as a political activist and commentator as well as for his philosophy. We will begin with a biographical film made shortly before his death, and study some of the text interviews in the film DERRIDA.


What does the term mean and why is it a powerful technique for critiquing political and cultural institutions.

The text

Derrida has had a profound impact on the philosophy of literature, what (for better or worse) has been the outcome of that impact.


Derrida’s most recent work has been on the concept of ‘forgiveness’: this is the search for a secular ‘redemption’ which he thinks is necessary for any healthy political polis.

Trying to read Derrida

This week we will grapple with Derrida’s style of writing: is it just unnecessary obscureism, or is there a connection between his content and form?

Intended audience

Anyone with a general interest in philosophy and the topic of postmodernism.

Delivery style



Handouts are provided in class.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

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