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Program Description

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There is no changing the world without first apprehending it. 

Critical theory provides a toolkit for comprehending the dominant structures of the world, how they affect us, and how they can be transformed. With these technologies of understanding we can interrogate and act across political, ethical, cultural, and economic registers. Practically, critical theory can help us think through some of the most pressing issues of our time, including: assaults on bodily autonomy, solidarity with struggles for indigenous sovereignty, the proliferation of authoritarianism and creeping fascism, and the acceleration of climate collapse. 

Critical theory gives scholarly credence to the very pragmatic idea that knowledge can have a positive impact on society.

The two-year MA in Critical Studies program combines the study of critical theory with the practice of creative research, so students learn not only to critique but also to intervene, reimagine, and remake.

Students are supported by faculty and mentors to present research at academic conferences and symposia, facilitate public talks and workshops, publish writing, and develop plans to continue their intellectual and cultural work upon graduation.

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Combine an MFA with an MA in Critical Studies

Our dual-degree option allows you to pursue an MFA in Visual Studies or MFA in Print Media while pursuing an MA in Critical Studies and complete both degrees in three years.

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Critical Studies Focus Week

MA/MFA Dual Degree Options

MA+MFA Print Media

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MA+MFA Visual Studies

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A dock by a lake from the Critical Studies Caldera Program

Thesis Writing Retreat

During the second year of the program students join faculty for a multi-day writing retreat including intensive study, dialogue, and community at Caldera Arts Center in the beautiful natural surroundings of the Pacific Northwest.

Action, The English Institute UC Irvine, October 7-8, 2022

The English Institute

The MA in Critical Studies Program is an Institutional Sponsor of The English Institute, a major resource for developments in criticism, theory, and scholarship.

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Program Highlights

Visiting Scholars

Conversations are enlivened by visiting writers and scholars throughout the year. These visiting scholars and writers include Ocean Vuong, Maggie Nelson, Sarah Schulman, Walidah Imarisha, Shayla Lawson, C. Riley Snorton, Z. Nicolazzo, Allan de Souza, and Cheryl Strayed

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Schedule a visit

Get in touch with MA in Critical Studies Chair, Shawna Lipton: slipton@willamette.edu to schedule a campus visit or to learn about the program today.

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