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MFA in Art Criticism & Writing

The practice of criticism involves making finer and finer distinctions among like things, but it is also a way of asking fundamental questions about art and life. The Art Criticism & Writing graduate program at the School of Visual Arts responds to both of these imperatives, offering a two-year course of study leading to an MFA degree. It is located in the heart of Manhattan, just blocks from the Chelsea gallery district.

For students who want to improve their writing and advance their knowledge of contemporary art, theory, and history, this program offers specialized instruction from practitioner-teachers led by the Chair of the program, writer David Levi Strauss. Current faculty include philosophers Robert Hullot-Kentor and Tom Huhn, poet and critic Raphael Rubinstein, New York Times critics Ken Johnson and Claudia La Rocco, artist/writers Suzanne Anker, Susan Bee, and Bill Beckley, and writer and theorist Thyrza Nichols Goodeve. The faculty is joined by visiting critics and scholars who come into the program in various capacities on a frequent basis. Recent guests have included writers and theorists Susan Buck-Morss (on "Visual Empire"), Avital Ronell (on Nietzsche's defense of art), W.J.T. Mitchell (on "The Lives and Loves of Images"), Michael Taussig (on drawings in anthropological fieldwork journals), and Sylvère Lotringer (on Paul Virilio and "The Itinerary of Catastrophe"); poe t/critics Ann Lauterbach, Bill Berkson, and John Yau; and critics Arthur Danto, Michael Brenson, Dave Hickey, Katy Siegel, Nancy Princenthal, and Eleanor Heartney. Last year, legendary art historian Leo Steinberg taught a special seminar for our students.

In addition to the required foundation courses in the historical and philosophical bases of criticism, students participate in three levels of writing practicums, leading to the completion of their thesis in the final term. The small class size allows a great deal of one-on-one time with the faculty and extensive dialogue with other students. We concentrate on the essay as form, as well as on shorter forms of review, and learn criticism by doing it. Students' writing and reviews are published regularly on our online magazine Degree Critical, and art magazine editors are involved in the program in various capacities. The thesis that students write at the end of their course of study is intended to be a substantial work of criticism. We want students to come out of this program able to write in the world.

From its inception, this program has had a special emphasis on the history and current transformations of the image. We live in an age when images have an inordinate power over us—the power to create and direct desire, to influence public opinion, to comfort and inflame. The critics of tomorrow must study images, in all of their manifestations, in order to better understand how we are subject to them.

To apply online, go to artcriticism.sva.edu/admissions.html. Generous departmental scholarships are available on a competitive basis.

Contact: e-mail: tel.: (212) 592-2408; e-mail: artcrit@sva.edu;,artcriticism.sva.edu