• Year One
  • Year Two


Course Credits
Critical Theory 1: Introduction 3
Introduction to Cultural Studies 3
Critical Writing and Visual Culture 3
Critical Pedagogy 3
Total 12


Course Credits
Critical Theory 2: Feminist Theory, Queer Theory, Gender, and Sexuality 3
Research for a Creative Practice 3
Creative Nonfiction Writing 3
Elective 3
Total 12


Course Credits
Thesis 1: Propose Thesis 6
Internship 3
Critical Race Theory 3
Total 12


Course Credits
Thesis 2: Complete Thesis 6
Professional Practice 3
Total 9

Learning Outcomes

Demonstrate graduate level research skills through the thesis process.

Communicate ideas effectively in written and oral forms for a variety of audiences and stakeholders.

Develop postgraduate professional practice and collaborative skills.

Develop an understanding of how critical theory’s questions/concerns/theories influence your own research interests (through scholarly research and critical writing).

The required course sequence builds from identifying key questions and issues in critical theory and cultural studies, to providing students with the methodological, research, and writing skills they need to ask good questions and to investigate their self-selected areas of inquiry in a thesis project of their own design. The thesis writing occurs during the second year, resulting in both academic research and opportunities for public scholarship based on the student’s professional interests.

Key Skills and Competencies

  • Writing clearly and directly
  • Writing as a thinking mechanism
  • Writing for a specific reader
  • Revision
  • Unpacking how texts work
  • Thinking critically
  • Reading closely and carefully
  • Facilitating discussion
  • Public speaking and presentation skills
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Working with complexity and ambiguity

Course Descriptions

Fall Semester 1 (12 credits)

Critical Theory 1: Introduction (3 credits)

This course will introduce students to foundational concepts, thinkers, and trajectories in critical theory with the aim of understanding what critical theory is, what it’s critical of, and how students can best utilize it in their own scholarly and creative interests. Generally speaking, critical theory is a broad field of thinking meant to deconstruct and challenge the (unjust) status quo, especially attentive to the position(s) of the marginalized, colonized, and oppressed. As I see it, critical theory is oppositional to white supremacy, capitalism, and cis heteropatriarchy; its critiques concern the structural, the psychoanalytic, and the embodied; and it is as concerned with building new worlds as it is with challenging the current social order. But it is also unsettled – much of what we call critical theory is still in the process of being worked out. With that in mind, many of the course’s themes and readings are intended to raise as many questions as they answer. The course begins by surveying topics such as capitalism, psychoanalysis, and power before turning our attention to race, (settler/de)colonization, gender, sexuality, aesthetics, and affect. None of these topics exist in a vacuum, and as such, each week/theme attempts to loop in several intersecting topics so as to reflect the complex reality of the world(s) we are embedded in. At the end of the course, students should be equipped with a strong foundation in the key theoretical and conceptual vocabularies necessary to do so.

Introduction to Cultural Studies (3 credits)

This seminar takes up ‘cultural studies’ as an interdisciplinary method of critical inquiry applied across different media, genres, and contexts. Together we will explore cultural studies as a framework for interrogating the politics and aesthetics of cultural production, and for engaging with historical and social questions in various cultural phenomena. Our readings will draw from fields such as Marxism, feminist theory, queer theory, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, and utopian studies, and provide an introduction to various topics in critical theory. We will also analyze a wide range of cultural objects including literature, film, television, architecture, painting, photography, music, and more. Throughout the seminar, students will bring to our discussion connections with their independent research and thesis work.

Critical Writing & Visual Culture (3 credits)

This course models the program’s combination of critical theory, critical writing, and creative research and investigates practices of looking and the production, circulation, and effects of visual images.

Critical Pedagogy (3 Credits)

Critical Pedagogy, a key course in our graduate program, is tailored for students who are passionate about bringing transformative changes in various educational environments, including college classrooms and community settings. This course combines a strong theoretical foundation with practical, real-world applications, allowing students to deeply understand critical pedagogy and how to put it into practice. The curriculum covers important topics like the role of education in society, the connection between teaching and social justice, and how power and resistance play out in educational contexts. Students are involved in a range of hands-on activities that are integral to the course. They will spend time reflecting on their own beliefs, biases, and philosophies about teaching, which is a crucial aspect of critical pedagogy. Students will also learn how to develop lesson plans that are engaging, inclusive, and informed by critical thinking, tailored for diverse groups of learners. They will practice how to lead classroom discussions in a way that is dynamic and includes everyone. Additionally, the course focuses on building practical teaching skills through various exercises, peer feedback, and guidance from the instructor. Moreover, the course offers students chances to observe and participate in real teaching situations and to build a teaching portfolio. These experiences are designed to enhance their understanding and apply the theoretical knowledge they gain in professional settings.

Spring Semester 1 (12 credits)

Critical Theory 2: Feminist Theory, Queer Theory, Gender, and Sexuality (3 credits)

This seminar interrogates the body as a critical mode of being. It will comprise both: tracing a genealogy of theoretical interventions around identity, community, and institutionality, as well as approaching the contemporary mechanisms through which gender and sexuality are specifically wielded as instruments of embodied power; be they aesthetic, biological, technical, cultural, or otherwise. This will mean thinking through interlocking questions of race, capital, ecology, affect, orientation, computation, disability, and transness as epistemological, topographical, and mediated apparatuses of assembled control. To more effectively do so, we will be working through and against conventional academic tradition, embracing a diverse array of anti-hierarchical scholarship to further our exploration of gender and sexuality and their embodied relation to politics, ethics, and being.

Research for a Creative Practice: Environmental Criticism (3 credits)

This graduate seminar will explore a range of methodologies, theoretical perspectives, and case studies rooted in the multidisciplinary field of the environmental humanities. Over the semester, we will guide our curiosity by considering the “connective ontology” that animates contemporary ecological thinking. Particular subjects we will engage may include some or all of the following: Queer Ecology + Ecofeminism; New Materialism; Animal Studies; Eco-phenomenology; Multispecies Anthropology; Environmental Justice; Ecological Imperialism; and Postcolonial + Indigenous Ecologies. In addition to discussing readings based in theory and fiction, we will also experiment with alternative methods of accessing/experiencing interconnection that go beyond traditional academics. Such methods may include guided somatic exploration, collaborative research, and other innovations we will conceive together. In all of our work we will grapple with the complex, partial, and sometimes murky relationships that persist between human and other-than-human ways of knowing, being, and meaning-making.

Creative Nonfiction Writing (3 credits)

In this creative writing workshop, students will explore the broad genre of creative nonfiction—from memoirs to meditations to personal essays imbued with cultural criticism. We’ll venture into the vast world of creative nonfiction in its many forms and approach with curiosity, play, and dedication. Writers will explore the foundations of creative nonfiction through generative writing and drawing exercises, close readings and analysis, and craft study while also learning anti-colonial views of craft, language, and form. By week six, students will begin exchanging works-in-progress, and our class time together will be spent engaging in an anti-racist, writer-centered workshop model. This course is designed to support graduate students in developing a strong understanding of creative nonfiction writing and a solid framework from which to build in future projects whether theses, interdisciplinary artistic work, or creative writing.

Critical Theory Elective: Special Topic (3 credits)

The course provides an exploratory space for students to engage with cutting-edge debates, methodologies, and perspectives in critical theory. Each semester, the course theme will shift, reflecting the ever-evolving landscape of critical studies and the interests of both the students and the instructor. Throughout the course, students will critically examine a variety of themes, with past topics having included "Disability Narratives" and "Affect Theory and Aesthetics." These themes offer a lens through which students can explore broader questions of culture, society, and representation. The course will encourage students to interrogate how these themes intersect with issues of identity, power, and resistance.

Fall Semester 2 = 12 credits

Internship (3 credits)

Students will design a credit-bearing internship to supplement their scholarly work.

Critical Theory 3: Critical Race Theory, Postcolonial Theory (3 credits)

This seminar explores Critical Race Theory and Postcolonial thought as epistemological and methodological frameworks important in studying structural inequality. The seminar takes as its starting point Critical Race Theory’s insistence that racism is pervasive, persistent, and ongoing and examines how racism, colonialism, and imperialism are embedded in institutions, laws, practices, and policies. The seminar acknowledges that race is a social construct with material effects and investigates the roles language, images, and other forms of cultural production play in racism, colonization, and resistance movements. The seminar will combine required content with opportunities for engagement with specialized topics students choose to explore more deeply related to their thesis work. Students will be encouraged to connect assigned texts to their own areas of expertise and research interests.

Thesis Writing 1: Thesis Proposal (6 credits)

This thesis workshop seminar is intended to support students as they propose and begin to write a successful master’s thesis for the Critical Studies program. The thesis (20-40 pages) will be both critical and constructive; that is, it should reveal, challenge, and dismantle systems of oppression, while also reimagining possible ways forward. At the end of the term, students will make a public presentation of their proposed projects, which will be evaluated by a panel composed of faculty, artists, and community stakeholders.

Spring Semester 2 (9 credits)

Thesis Writing 2: Complete Thesis (6 credits)

This course will provide students with opportunities to present, refine, and receive feedback on their written work. Regular reviews of drafts will occur in a combination of writing workshops and meetings with the professor throughout the semester. Each student will be provided with an additional mentor with expertise in their area of investigation. Final thesis work will be approved by the instructor, program Chair, and thesis mentor at the end of the semester.

Professional Practice (3 credits)

In this workshop-based seminar, students develop effective professional strategies to successfully pursue a chosen career path upon completion of the Critical Studies program. The course helps students identify opportunities for achieving meaningful career objectives and for making a contribution as a critical citizen. Students learn concrete professional skills: curriculum vitae formatting, email and communication etiquette, letter writing, interviewing, public speaking, job search resources, portfolio development, and how to apply for opportunities (which may include PhD programs, teaching positions, publications, grants, fellowships, internships, residencies, or exhibitions). The objective is to prepare the future Critical Studies graduate to identify, plan and pursue a strategy for meaningful career development and a rewarding professional life in which their talents translate into a significant critical cultural contribution.

Sample Readings

CRITICAL PEDAGOGY Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paolo Friere (1970) Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks, (1994) The Undercommons, Fred Moten and Stefano Harney (2013)

CULTURAL STUDIES Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault (1975) Essential Essays Volume 1: Foundations of Cultural Studies, Stuart Hall (2018) Mythologies, Roland Barthes (1957)

CRITICAL THEORY Are Prisons Obsolete? Angela Davis (2003) Black Skin White Masks, Frantz Fanon (1952) Capital is Dead. Is This Something Worse?, McKenzie Wark (2021) Terrorist Assemblages, Jasbir Puar (2007)

QUEER AND FEMINIST THEORY Black on Both Sides, C. Riley Snorton (2017) Exile and Pride, Eli Clare (1999) Living a Feminist Life, Sara Ahmed (2017) Wayward Lives Beautiful Experiments, Saidiya Hartman (2019)

CRITICAL RACE THEORY Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture, Hortense Spillers (2003) In the Wake, Christina Sharpe (2016) Lose Your Mother, Saidiya Hartman (2006)



Reach out to MA in Critical Studies Chair, Shawna Lipton, to schedule a tour or to learn more about the program.

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