Cultural Theory

This page contains a selection of Michèle’s work on Cultural Theory. Extended studies on Virginia Woolf and World War I issues can be found on those specific pages.


 Key Sociological Thinkers: article on Stuart Hall
Michèle Barrett; Editor: Rob Stones
Palgrave-McMillan, 2007

KeySociologicalThinkersStuart Hall, the influential cultural theorist, died in February 2014. Michèle wrote the entry on him in the book Key Sociological Thinkers.

“One of Stuart Hall’s recent books gives the following as a description of the author: ‘His work has had a profound influence on cultural studies and on the rethinking of the sociological understanding of contemporary societies.’ This is an understatement. Stuart Hall has had more than a profound influence on cultural studies, he virtually is cultural studies. As well as his intellectual influence, which has brought a ‘political’ version of cultural studies to the fore around the world, he has done more than anyone to establish cultural studies as an academic discipline in Britain. Cultural studies has tended to operate in academia as a satellite of either English literature or sociology, with the attendant disadvantages of each, but has now been accepted (for example for purposes of research assessment) as an independent discipline.”
Excerpt from Michèle’s article.



Star Trek: The Human Frontier
Michèle Barrett and Duncan Barrett
Polity Press, 2001

StarTrek“In a world that has been shrunk by modern communications and transport, Star Trek has maintained the values of western maritime exploration, and the discovery of “Strange New Worlds” in space. This ′Starry Sea′ has become a familiar metaphor in the thirty–year history of Star Trek, providing a backdrop to the relentless questioning of human nature. The progressive politics that underpinned the original programme is still very much a part of Star Trek′s overall philosophy. The earlier series of Star Trek shows a faith in science and rationalism, and in a benign, liberal leadership. This ′modern′ order is now in decline, as we can see in the introduction of religion, mental illness and fragmented identities in Deep Space Nine and Voyager. This book addresses these issues in philosophical, literary, historical and cultural contexts, bringing together an unusual combination of authorial expertise. Written to appeal to those who don′t know Star Trek from Star Wars, as well as those with the ferociously detailed knowledge of the true Trekker, it explains the ideas and ideals behind this significant cultural phenomenon.”


“Writing for 21st-century students, the language is straightforward and unpatronizing – you might need to have a working knowledge of Star Trek to appreciate the book, but cultural theory comes in a user-friendly but never simplistic form. In the next section, the Barretts discuss the boundaries of humanness and offer a useful assessment of the term ‘cyborg’, explaining but also challenging current critical understandings so the term becomes, once again, a live and lively metaphor. The final section, on postmodern identity, would serve as an excellent introduction to the field for anyone with a reasonable knowledge of Star Trek, because as the writers assert, Star Trek is postmodern in content and not just in style, and their choice of appropriate storylines is exemplary.”
Review by Linda McDowell, Sociology 36, 2001

Poster for talk on StarTrek



Michèle on Radio 4’s In Our Time program discussing Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World  (April 2009)


Bobby Baker: Redeeming Features of Daily Life
Michèle Barrett and Bobby Baker
Routledge, 2007

Bobby Baker jacket“This fully-illustrated book brings together for the first time an account of Baker’s career as an artist – from her first sculptures at Central St Martins in the early 1970s to her most recent work, ‘How to Live’ and ‘Diary Drawings’ – with critical commentary by reviewers and academic practitioners….  Under the guiding editorial hand of distinguished cultural theorist Michèle Barrett, this volume is an essential text for students interested in performance, gender, and visual culture, and a hugely absorbing and accessible account of Baker’s work.”

‘In its comprehensive and multifaceted presentation of Baker’s extensive career, Bobby Baker: Redeeming Features of Daily Life serves as an important addition to the existing scholarship on feminist performance art. It also permits the reader to gain an understanding of Baker’s career that would be impossible to comprehend on the basis of isolated performances or essays. Like Baker herself, this book will have appeal on many levels to many different audiences.’ – Contemporary Theatre Review



Imagination in Theory: Essays on Writing and Culture
Michèle Barrett
Polity Press, 1999

“This new book draws together the work of a leading social theorist who has devoted herself to examining the intersection of cultural studies, social theory, feminism, and literary theory. Imagination in Theory contains both new and published work focusing on Barrett′s long–standing interest in cultural questions, and sImaginationInTheoryhows how this informs her analysis of current developments in social and feminist theory. The essays challenge disciplinary boundaries, and Barrett uses her background as a specialist in literature to “translate” across the barriers between the humanities and social sciences, raising a number of important – and sometimes controversial – issues. Taking culture, theory and writing as its themes, the book explores these through work on aesthetics, cultural politics, subjectivity, developments in feminist thought, psychoanalysis, and some new ideas on cultural studies and social theory. The book ends with a strikingly original comparison of the ideas of Virginia Woolf and Michel Foucault which is used to pose questions about the differences and similarities between fiction and theory. This exciting book will be widely read by students and academics in cultural theory, social theory, feminism and literary theory”.  Publisher’s description.


“Imagination has not been contemporary social theory′s strongest suit. Michele Barrett is one of the few theorists who has consistently argued for thee importance of this interface and in these elegantly written, lucidly formulated, vigorously argued essays on a variety of cognate themes, she develops and enlarges her exploration of this complex terrain of enquiry.” Stuart Hall


Inaugural Lecture Queen Mary 2001

Inaugural Lecture poster


Read the text of Michele’s inaugural lecture as Professor of Modern Literary and Cultural Theory:
INAUGURAL Image and Affect