Pratt Institute's Liberal Arts B.A. Major


BA Program in Critical & Visual Studies
Department of Social Science & Cultural Studies
School of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Pratt Institute
200 Willoughby Ave.
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11205

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. 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 a 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: Strong Foundations, Individualized Programs
Our B.A. program features a first-year curriculum that builds a foundation in many classic and innovative texts of philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities, and in the writings of both historical and contemporary thinkers who are of special importance to critical theory and visual studies. Students then 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 research methods, and various techniques of communication.
  • The ability to develop and critically integrate written, oral, visual, and spatial expression.
  • The flexibility to pursue both in-depth studies and make links between academic work and the wider 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 scholarship and cultural criticism.
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. But we are united in our commitment to a new approach to the liberal arts and sciences that emphasizes education and not simply “schooling” or training. We understand education to be a matter of ‘learning to learn’ in order to provide our graduates with a foundation for independent, 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.

Our students and faculty participate in the dynamic array of cultural events and institutions offered by our unparalleled location in New York City. Students immerse themselves in the intellectual life of ‘the City’, both outside the gates of the Institute and by participating in public programming organized by the faculty and the organizations with which they are affiliated.
The program sponsors many events every year that embody the range of student and faculty interests. Some long running events and series include:
  • The Departmental Speaker Series, which brings renowned scholars and intellectuals to the Institute and gives our students the opportunity to meet and interact with them.
    • Past speakers have included: Nora Alter, Alain Badiou, Robin Blackburn, Susan Buck-Morss, Tina Campt, Jim Czarnecki, Gina Dent, Anna Grimshaw, Timothy Hall, Saidiya Hartmam, Randy Martin, Tom McCarthy, Gyan Prakash, Vicente Rafael, Martha Rosler, Sukhdev Sandhu, and Wendy Woon.
  • 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 Stanley Aronowitz, Patricia Clough, Juan Cole, and Susan Meiselas.
  • 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 after the screenings, making for lively discussions that extend beyond the classroom.
  • The Wallabout Film Festival, which 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 is an important platform for supporting student filmmaking and for adding to the vibrant creative culture of Brooklyn.
  • Field trips, which 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, which 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.
The Structure of the Program
The First Year: Foundation
The first year of the program provides students with a foundation in history, philosophy, critical theory, and science studies. The centerpiece of the first year is a first-year seminar in which students will 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 1-3, identify their interests and begin to focus on the concentration that will structure the final two years of their program. 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, history or philosophy, an interdisciplinary course of study, such as cultural 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: Senior Seminar and Senior Thesis
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 Seminar’ and ‘Senior Thesis’, in which students are guided through the process of developing, researching and writing a graduate-school level essay. 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 cultural world.

Bachelor of Arts in Critical and Visual Studies Program Goals

To educate students to:
• Develop their intellectual literacy.
• Learn how to think logically, clearly, skeptically, critically and, above all, for
• Take in and analyze new information intelligently, that is, learn to learn.
• Grasp the interconnections and dependencies of the various and diverse fields of human
inquiry, artistic endeavor, and cultural, social and political practice.
• Refine their sense of ethical, social and political responsibility and of the world’s
diverse cultures and communities.
• Appreciate the aesthetic achievements of poetry, cinema, literature and the visual arts.
• Understand the functions of analytical and quantitative reasoning and the methods of the
sciences in comprehending the natural and social worlds.
• Gain meaningful access to the historical past both for its own sake and to think
creatively about the future.

Bachelor of Arts in Critical and Visual Studies Program Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of their first year, students will have learned to:
• Interpret and use primary-source documents in conducting historical inquiry.
• Interpret complex texts and paraphrase their meanings in their own words.
• Identify and analyze basic concepts from the history of philosophy.
• Recognize the differences between and similarities of scientific and non-scientific
• Write logical essays that deploy and weigh evidence and develop cogent theses.

By the end of their second year, students will have learned to:
• Integrate skills and knowledge developed in their various courses.
• Articulate their interpretive ideas in dialectical engagement with their peers and
• Organize essays to reflect independent research and formulate original research and
study questions.
• Connect their academic inquiries to extra-academic institutional practices.
• Map the relations to and dependencies on other fields of inquiry of their own emerging
academic interests.

By the end of their third year, students will have learned to:
• Interpret advanced literary, philosophical, historical, cultural and social scientific texts
and arguments.
• Explain the significance and structure of their academic research direction to a panel of
their professors.
• Explore and criticize complex ideas in academic symposia.
• Plan an independent writing project that involves formulating hypotheses, pursuing
multiple paths of research and evidence-gathering, and drafting and revising essays.
• Defend the integrity of their chosen field of specialized study and assist other students
in understanding the integrity of theirs.
• Explain the relationships of their academic work to extra-academic institutional

By the time they graduate, students will have learned to:
• Interpret, paraphrase and criticize the most advanced literary, philosophical, historical
and social scientific texts and arguments.
• Write clear, cogent, critical, expressive prose.
• Present their ideas and research findings in public settings.
• Complete an independent essay or project that prepares them to apply to graduate
programs or a job in their chosen field.
• Compile a portfolio or essay explaining their intellectual development and
• Appraise the relationship between their own academic and intellectual competences and
those of other educated people in the arts and sciences.
• Explain to a group of their peers how they understand their ethical, social and political
obligations and commitments.
Think for themselves.

To Apply, please visit Pratt Institute Admissions at


For more information, please visit our official Pratt page at:

Our New Program of Study
(Beginning Fall 2014)

First Level: The first two years of the curriculum will give our students a broad and solid foundation in the Liberal Arts and Sciences, as well as allowing you to begin exploring your own individual interests.

Semester I
The first semester immerses our students in the foundations of the Liberal Arts: critical analysis, history, philosophy, science, and literature. Students share a common experience in the first semester that will establish a unique basis for your studies:

CST.100 First Year Seminar - 3.0 credits
CH.300 World History I - 3.0 credits
PHIL.208 or PHIL.209 History of Philosophy - 3.0 credits
ENGL.101 Introduction to Literary and Critical Studies I - 3.0 credits
MSCI.210 Science and Society - 3.0 credits
CST.190 Beyond Google I: Basic Information Literacy - 1.0 credit
Total Credits 16.0

Semester II
Semester Two completes the introduction to history, critical studies, literature and writing. It allows students the flexibility to choose electives from across the department, the school, and the institute. To ensure a distribution of elective credits, in semesters 2, 3, and 4 students may take no more than 6 non-required credits in any one disciplinary field of Social Science, History, Philosophy, and, Math and Science and no more than 15 credits from any single division at Pratt (i.e. SLAS, Art & Design, and Architecture).

ENGL.103 Introduction to Literary and Critical Studies II - 3.0 credits
CH.400 World History II - 3.0 credits
Open Elective credits 9.0 - 3.0 credits
Total Credits - 15.0

Semester III
In Semester Three, students take the new Symposium course and continue their distribution of electives.
SS.225 Symposium - 3.0 credits
Open Elective - 12.0 credits
Total Credits - 15.0

Semester IV
In semester 4, students participate in the guided advisement of Moderation. They also take their required Theory and Practice course and continue to take electives. “Moderation” provides students with the opportunity to reflect on their studies during semesters 1-3, identify their interests and begin to focus on the concentration that will structure the final two years of their program. Moderation requires students to examine their initial experiences in the program, their goals, and their interests, to evaluate their performance and their commitment to a course of study and to chart their final two years of college with the help of a faculty committee.

Theory and Practice requirement - 3.0
SS.299 Moderation - 2.0
Open Elective credits - 9.0
Total Credits - 14.0

First Level (Years 1 and 2) Total Course Credits: 60

Second Level: In their third and senior years, students are immersed in their guided electives, minors, internships, and their senior project or honors thesis. The project or thesis is undertaken with a committee chosen from and approved by the faculty. With the help of their Moderation advisers, students develop a course of study tailored to their individual interests and faculty expertise.

Semester V
CST.390 Beyond Google II: Thesis and Information Research - 1.0 credit
Guided elective - 9.0 credits
Open elective - 6.0 credits
Total Credits - 16.0

Semester VI
Guided electives - 9.0 credits
Open electives - 6.0 credits
Total Credits - 15.0

Semester VII
Guided elective - 3.0 credits
Open electives - 9.0 credits
CST.440 Senior Seminar - 3.0 credits
Total Credits - 15.0

Semester VIII
You may choice two options, either a 6 credit Senior Thesis or a 3 credit Senior Thesis
CST.480 Thesis/Senior Project* - 3.0 credits
Open Electives - 12.0 credits
CST.480 Thesis/Senior Project* - 6.0 credits
Open Electives - 9.0 credits

Total Credits - 15.0
Second Level (Years 3 and 4) Total Credits 61
Total Credits for Degree - 121

*Senior projects carry 3 credits while more formal and in depth academic thesis carries 6 credits. If a student undertakes a 3 credit project, then they will take 12 elective credits. If a student undertakes a 6 credit thesis, they will take 9 credits.