Critical and Visual Studies, BA
Critical and Visual Studies (CritViz) is a bachelor of arts program for imaginative, creative-minded students seeking a dynamic, interdisciplinary liberal arts degree with a strong foundation in the social sciences and humanities, while immersed in Pratt’s uniquely vibrant, stimulating environment. If you are excited about the arts, about culture, society and the environment, about global trends and urban issues, then Critical and Visual Studies is the place for you. Critical and Visual Studies is a unique program as it draws the best practices in the social sciences, emphasizing analytical thinking, research methodologies, investigative writing, critical discourse alongside the artistic, literary, and visual theories of the humanities. Our goal is to cultivate you, our student, to become an inspired thinker who can problem solve and be visionary, while also having a solid grasp of global political trends. CritViz offers our majors the opportunity to sharpen your political analyses and cultural critique. We train you in both the Western canon as well as global intellectual thought traditions that allow you to deepen your engagement with the most pressing concerns of our time.
About the Program
Students are afforded the opportunity to pursue individually tailored paths of study grounded in a core curriculum emphasizing both theoretical foundations and practical applications. CritViz provides unparalleled opportunities to merge the liberal arts and the social sciences through the lens of visual and material culture. Our innovative program emphasizes the importance of being able to write persuasively, represent one’s ideas effectively, and to communicate efficiently. These skills are honed through the systematic and rigorous study of the artistic, social, and political meanings of cultural and aesthetic production. In the Critical and Visual Studies program, every aspect of social life—from street art to political systems; music and underground media to cinema and high fashion; and sustainability and the environment to the global economy—is a potential subject of study.
The Liberal Arts and Sciences Context at Pratt: Strong Foundations, Multidisciplinary Programs
CritViz features a carefully designed foundational curriculum scaffolded over four years with plenty of freedom to individualize the student’s interests. The CritViz curriculum is grounded in both classic and innovative texts of critical theory, visual studies, philosophy, social science, and the humanities. Students can choose from a diverse offering of minor electives within the fields of psychology, cultural studies, philosophy, sustainability, history, gender/sexuality, and social justice/social practice in the department. Students can also choose concentrations from within the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences and across the Institute in architecture, art history, art and design, and planning. The fundamental goal of the faculty in Critical and Visual Studies is to provide students with a challenging and rigorous multidisciplinary education that helps them become critical, articulate, widely read, intellectually flexible, and culturally savvy. We take pride in ensuring our students learn how to write well, know how to conduct research and field work methodically, and are able to express ideas comprehensively. These skills are acquired through a culminating capstone project in the form of a written thesis or an extended creative project at the end of their final year.
The Critical and Visual Studies program will offer students:
- a critical understanding of culture grounded in philosophy, history, the social sciences, and humanities;
- training in social theory, applied artistic and social practice approaches, analytical research methods, and various techniques of communication;
- the ability to develop and critically integrate written, oral, visual, and spatial expression;
- the flexibility to pursue in-depth studies and make links between academic work and the wider world through internships in everything from art galleries and media publications to production houses and nonprofit agencies; and
- a faculty whose work and teaching is on the cutting edge of scholarship and cultural criticism.
Significantly, CritViz also allows students to take electives in traditional studio arts and new media courses, encouraging hands-on training while providing further opportunities to apply liberal arts training. Students explore diverse forms of material culture and develop their writing skills while working experimentally in a variety of media, integrating the verbal and visual and creating new combinations of word and image.
Similarly committed to a wide range of intellectual disciplines and creative practices, CritViz faculty are dedicated to teaching from the new approaches to the liberal arts and sciences that emphasize education—not simply “schooling” or training—as a process of “learning to learn.” We therefore aim to provide our graduates with a foundation for independent lifelong learning, preparing them to thrive in a future economy where they will need critical and analytical skills to move seamlessly among changing economic sectors and evolving career paths in arts, design, museums, cinema, and journalism.
The faculty’s diverse teaching and research interests include philosophy, sociology, ethnography, cultural studies, media studies, urban studies, social practice, aesthetics and visual culture, globalization, imperialism, colonialism and post-colonialism, critical theory, psychology, gender and sexuality, world history, history and historiography, cinema and documentary film, literature and creative writing, theater and performance studies, environmental studies, sustainability, and the sociology of science and technology. The faculty’s area specialties include the Americas, Africa, the Mediterranean, Central Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific Rim, and the Indian Ocean. Our scholarship and imaginations are global and we work to teach the histories of colonialism as well as decolonial methodologies.
Our students and faculty participate in the dynamic array of cultural events and institutions offered by New York City. Students immerse themselves in the intellectual life of the city, both outside of the Institute and by participating in a rich array of on-campus events including:
- The Departmental Speaker Series, which brings renowned scholars and intellectuals to Pratt and gives our students the opportunity to meet and interact with them. Past speakers have included: Manthia Diawara, Coco Fusco, Licia Fiol-Matta, Leticia Alvarado & Nao Bustamante, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Gayatri Gopinath, Subhankar Banerjee, Cecilia Vicuña, T.J. Demos, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Jaskiran Dhillon, Julietta Singh, Roderick Ferguson, Jasbir K. Puar, Arjun Appadurai, Jack Halberstam, Lisa Duggan, Alain Badiou, Robin Blackburn, Susan Buck-Morss, Tina Campt, Simon Critchley, Vijay Prashad, Gina Dent, Robert Gooding-Williams, Saidiya Hartmam, Randy Martin, Gyan Prakash, Vicente Rafael, Martha Rosler, Sukhdev Sandhu, Michael Taussig, and Ruthie Gilmore.
- The Scholar-in-Residence Program, which brings a major contemporary thinker or artist to campus for an extended residency. Past scholars-in-residence have included Partha Chatterjee, Stanley Aronowitz, Patricia Clough, Juan Cole, Susan Meiselas, Avery Gordon and Laura Mulvey.
- Film Screenings, which offer provocative forums for timely debates about current social, political, and aesthetic issues. Filmmakers accompany their film screenings and address interested students afterward, making for lively discussions that extend beyond the classroom.
- Field Trips to see current museum and gallery exhibitions; to network with artists, architects, designers, critics, and curators; and to engage with the city at large.
- Senior Thesis Presentations, which are public presentations by seniors of their yearlong written and creative work, allowing students the opportunity to present their work to the broader Pratt community.
These presentations and discussions are a chance for students to get to know the work of peers and to gain perspective on their own intellectual development.
The Program’s Structure
The First Year: Foundation
The first year of the program provides students with a foundation in critical theory, visual thinking, philosophy, literary approaches, the ethics of research methodologies and social sciences. The centerpiece is a first-year seminar in which students become acquainted with the range of subjects, methods, and theories from which, later in their careers at Pratt, they will be able to assemble their own specialized paths of study.
The Second Year: Free Electives, Symposium, and Moderation
The second year of the program is rich in elective offerings that permit students to explore and expand the interests they discovered in their first year of study. The second year is anchored by the two-course sequence of Symposium and Moderation. In Symposium, accomplished scholars in the liberal arts, some from the Institute and some from outside, lecture and lead a seminar in which students gain exposure to the standards of professional intellectual work. In Moderation, students are guided by a faculty committee to reflect on their studies during semesters one through three. Moderation enables students to take stock of their initial experiences in the program, examine their goals and interests, evaluate their performance, establish their commitment to a course of study, and chart their final two years of college.
The Third Year: Guided Electives and the Pursuit of a Focus of Study
In the third year of the program, students use their individual interests, as discovered and refined in Moderation, to pursue an independent concentration. The concentration can follow a standard course of study in the liberal arts, such as anthropology, art history, history, philosophy, or psychology; an interdisciplinary course of study, such as cultural studies, gender studies, urban studies, or visual studies; or an individually designed course of study, such as mass media and society, psychology and the arts, or war and culture. Students can also add minors in studio art to their programs.
The Fourth Year
In the fourth year, students round out their education by taking all-Institute electives in which they explore topics and problems outside of their core areas of study. At the same time, students complete their individual concentrations with the capstone courses Senior Thesis 1 and Senior Thesis 11, in which they are guided through the process of developing, researching, and writing a graduate school-level essay supplemented by original creative work. The senior thesis, which is the end product of this experience, hones students’ abilities to express themselves, argue their ideas, and make fresh sense of the broader social and cultural worlds they research. This is a unique opportunity for direct study and for pursuing original visual and qualitative research.
Critical and Visual Studies Coordinator
Academic Advisement Coordinator
|History of Philosophy, Ancient to Medieval
or Modern Philosophy:History and Problems
|HMS-101A||Literary and Critical Studies I||3|
|MSWI-210C||Science & Society||3|
|Social Science "Global" Core Elective||3|
|SS-250||The Ethics of Research||3|
|SSWI-228T||Introduction to Theory and Critique||3|
|Math/Science Core Elective||3|
|Modern Thought Elective||3|
|All Institute Elective||3|
|HMS-201A||Literary and Critical Studies II||3|
|SS-430||Methods Of Cultural Analysis||3|
|All Institute Elective||3|
|Urban Praxis Elective||3|
|SS-450||Junior Research Seminar: Critical and Visual Studies||3|
|All Institute Electives||6|
|Social Ecology Elective||3|
|All Institute Electives||6|
|CST-440||Senior Thesis I||3|
|All Institute Electives||6|
|CST-480||Senior Thesis II||3|
|All Institute Electives||9|