Critical and Visual Studies
Critical and Visual Studies is a Bachelor of Arts program for the curious and imaginative student who wants to pursue studies in the liberal arts and sciences while immersed in Pratt’s unique environment of creative openness and intellectual experimentation.
We believe that the "liberal arts and sciences" bring vitality, creativity, and practical application to intellectual practice. At the core of the program is the understanding that the integration of theory, method, and experience is crucial to learning. Here, every aspect of social life —from street art to political systems, from international media to the global economy— is a potential subject of your studies. The program provides an unique interdisciplinary framework within which our students explore the liberal arts through the study of the artistic, social, and political meanings of cultural and aesthetic production.
The Liberal Arts and Sciences Context at Pratt: Education, Not Schooling
Our program features a core curriculum that builds a foundation in many classic and innovative texts of philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities, and in the writings of contemporary thinkers who are of special importance to critical theory and visual studies. Students choose from a generous selection of electives and 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 the department’s program in Critical and Visual Studies is to provide our students with an education that helps them become critical, articulate, widely read, intellectually flexible and culturally savvy.
Your studies in the program will give you:
A critical understanding of culture that is grounded in philosophy, history, the social sciences and humanities.
Competency in social theory, analytical structures, techniques of communication, and familiarity with a range of research methods and perspectives.
The ability to develop and critically integrate written, oral, visual, and spatial expression.
The flexibility to pursue both in-depth studies as well as opportunities to make links between academic work and the working world through internships in cultural institutions, especially non-profit arts and public service agencies.
A faculty whose scholarship and teaching is on the cutting edge of cultural criticism and analysis.
Students and faculty in Critical and Visual Studies are transforming the traditional meaning of “liberal arts and sciences” by bringing vitality, creativity, and pragmatism to their studies in a stimulating environment of intellectual and artistic innovation.
Because of our unique context, our students benefit from a stimulating atmosphere of intellectual and artistic innovation. The Critical and Visual Studies curriculum allows students the opportunity to take electives in the traditional studio arts and in new media. Students can work in a variety of media, developing their writing skills and working experimentally to integrate the verbal and visual, creating new combinations of word and image.
The faculty in Critical and Visual Studies is committed to a wide range of intellectual endeavours and public engagement. We are creating a new approach to the liberal arts and sciences that emphasizes education and not simply “schooling” or training. We emphasize education and learning in order to provide our graduates with a foundation for life-long learning. The faculty’s love of learning and teaching is deeply connected to our wish that our students be prepared to thrive in a future economy where they will need critical and analytical skills to move seamlessly between changing economic sectors and evolving career paths.
Our faculty’s diverse teaching and research interests include philosophy, sociology, ethnography, cultural studies, media studies, 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, landscape and space, environmental studies, sustainability, and the sociology of science and technology. The faculty’s area specialities include the Americas, Africa, the Mediterranean, Central Asia, Middle East, the Pacific Rim and Indian Oceans.
Pratt's location in New York City allows students and faculty to be enthusiastic participants in a dynamic array of cultural events and institutions. Our students immerse themselves in the intellectual life of New York City. and have many opportunities to participate in a wide array of public programming organized by the faculty or organizations with which they are affiliated.
Our events underscore the program's emphasis on the critical understanding of culture and the social world of art and social life. The nature and format of our events are open to the range of student and faculty interests. Some long running events and series include:
Lectures, Forums and Speaker Series as well as the department’s regular Scholar-In-Residence appointment bring renowned scholars and intellectuals to the Institute and give our students the opportunity to meet and interact with many distinguished thinkers and academics.
Past speakers have included: Susan Buck-Morss, Patricia Clough, Alain Badiou, Stanley Aronowitz, Susan Meiselas, Gyan Prakash, Randy Martin, Martha Rosler, Nora Alter, Vicente Rafael, Gina Dent, Saidiya Hartmam, Wendy Woon, Sukhdev Sandhu, Anna Grimshaw, Timothy Hall, Robin Blackburn, Tom McCarthy, Juan Cole, Tina Campt, and Jim Czarnecki.
Film Screenings are designed to be provocative forums for current issues and timely debates. Filmmakers accompany their film screenings and address interested students after the screenings, making for lively discussions that extend beyond the classroom. Students and faculty are also active in the Pratt Film Society, and Pratt Radio (WPIR), with plans to expand that participation.
The Wallabout Film Festival is a student film festival produced and curated by an interdisciplinary team of students from Pratt Institute. Showcasing films by innovative student filmmakers from around the world, Wallabout is a platform for students to screen their work to a diverse community of peers, artists and industry professionals, initiating conversation and collaboration. It has become an important platform for supporting student filmmaking and for adding to the vibrant creative culture of Brooklyn.
Wallabout 2011 Promo (http://wallabout.org/archive/)
Field trips organized by faculty of the Critical and Visual Studies program, provide opportunities 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 Readings are public presentations by seniors of their thesis research. 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.
Our 2012 theses are:
Molly H. Adams.
Communicating interdependence: Ecological Thinking and the Natural History Museum.
A Study of the Public School New York.
The District Divide: An Investigation of the Effects of Gentrification on Go-Go Music in Washington, D.C.
The Rise of the New Woman: Autonomy and Identity in Fashion and the works of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel.
Elizabeth G. Merrill
But Hallucinations Are Also Facts: Althusser, Philosophical Autobiography, and the Narration of Mental illness.
Transitions as a Rider: How Skateboarding Benefits from Corporate Business.
Other recent theses:
- Selin Bucak --- Freedom of Expression in Turkey: A Contested Public Sphere.
- Kia Marian Carbone --- Walter Benjamin’s Concept of Aura in the Digital Age.
- Alaina Feldman --- Beyond Fashion: Luibov Popova and the Political Possibilities of Clothing.
- Alison Gilbert --- Bog, Honor, Ojczyzna (God, Honor, Fatherland).
- Kristina Kaner --- Fashion and the City: Exploring Tensions Endemic to Urban Life through Street Style.
- Elise Majorossy --- “Live with your century but be not its creature”: Art and Historicism in Tarkovsky and Soderbergh.
- Cory Murphy --- Know Your Customer: American Cultural Studies, Pratt Institute, and its Future.
- Christina Young --- The Exploitation at Work in Celebrity Culture.
- Morgan Elizabeth Wordes --- Breaking out of School Constraints: The Holistic Development of Individuals within a Community.
THE PROGRAM'S STRUCTURE
The First Term: A Core Curriculum
The first year of the program immerses you in a core curriculum comprised of introductory courses in the liberal arts that is centered in Cultural Studies, Critical Theory, and Visual Studies. Courses in philosophy, world history, and specially-linked first year English and Writing courses offer a grounding in liberal arts that allows our students to pursue their wide interests. The second year of the program allows students the opportunity to explore subjects across our curriculum. Our electives integrate your studies by focusing attention on specific cultural and historical contexts. The core includes "praxis" courses that investigate different forms of social, artistic, and scientific expression.
Second and Third Terms
Beginning with grounding in the liberal arts, your course of study builds towards advanced courses and projects that explore theoretical knowledge as cultural practice. At the end of your second year, students prepare a plan of study for the next two years leading up to their thesis or senior project. During this time, students are encouraged to consult with faculty in planning their studies around a variety of minors and concentrations which are either currently available or in the process of being formalized.
In your third year, there, our students branch off into areas of concentration ranging from globalization to sustainability, cinema to urban studies, and Critical Theory to psychology. We currently offer a Minor in Cultural Studies and many students also pursue the Minor in Art History as well. Concentrations and minors being considered in the Department of Social Science & Cultural Studies or across the School of Liberal Arts & Sciences include Critical Visual Studies, Film and Cinema Studies, Psychology, Middle Eastern Societies and Cultures, Philosophy, Social and Critical Theory, and several more.
The Senior Year: Internships, the Senior Thesis, and the Senior Seminar
A required internship will give you the opportunity to make connections for the professional world and post-graduate study. The internship is the culmination of the program's emphasis on real-world experience, grounded in the previous semesters of study and practice. Under the supervision of a faculty member, students identify individual internship opportunities primarily in New York City non-profits, community, and arts and cultural organizations. Preparation for the experience includes everything from the creation of an up-to-date résumé and cover letter, and other workplace skills, to reflection on the social and political contexts in which the internship organization is embedded. During the semester in which students work at their internship sites, they also meet regularly as a group with the supervising faculty member and undertake written assignments.
The final year in Critical and Visual Studies enhances a student's sense of independence, self-reflection, and the confidence to make a difference in the world. Students are required to work closely with at least one faculty member in writing a thesis. You will also participate in a Senior Seminar course built around weekly meetings in which seniors share their work and learn to give and receive peer reviews in addition to assigned readings and conferences that are intended to support the thesis project from beginning to end. The senior thesis is intended to hone your ability to express and argue your ideas while striving for new understandings of the social and cultural foundations of everyday life.
Our B. A. major features a core curriculum that provides a foundation in classic and contemporary works of philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities, and in the writings of contemporary thinkers who are of special importance to critical theory and visual studies. The fundamental goal of the faculty is to provide our students with an education that helps them become critical, articulate, widely read, intellectually flexible and culturally savvy.