University at Buffalo
Department of

Art

Art & Design

Art History

Visual Studies

Ph.D. in Visual Studies

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The Ph.D. program in Visual Studies at the University at Buffalo is a small, highly selective program for motivated, independently-minded scholars invested in critical discourses that analyze and challenge the social norm. We specialize in exploring those structuring ideologies that lurk beneath the visible and help select, order and make legible what can be seen—and what cannot be. We especially welcome students interested in considerations of sexuality and the body, and the technologies and sciences that underwrite and make visible our embodied self-understandings.

The doctoral program in Visual Studies at the University at Buffalo is among the most interdisciplinary, flexible and progressive PhD programs in the country.  Designed to be small and selective, it offers extremely close working relationships with faculty, but with all the benefits of a leading, large research university. This program offers a study of visual culture with a particular emphasis on the late 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Integrating art history, histories of the image, and critical theory with alternative perspectives rooted in sexuality studies, gender, the history of science, and other forms of cultural studies, the PhD program offers a course of study in visual culture that effaces traditional disciplinary boundaries. You are welcome to take courses in any department or program at Buffalo for credit and your course of study will be tailored to your research focus in consultation with your advisers. There are only a few required courses—an introduction to visual studies/critical theory and another course that analyzes art in the context of social change.

The PhD in Visual Studies centrally interrogates how ideologies both reveal, and camouflage, visual meanings, part of a larger inquiry into the manifold points of contact between theories of the social and those discourses of the humanities, social and natural sciences that purport to describe and define them. This focus affords students the opportunity to explore how visual culture, far from a mere representation of reality is, in fact, a critical process that actively participates in the production of the real it claims to represent. We specialize in exploring those structuring ideologies that lurk beneath the visible and help select, order and make legible what can be seen—and what cannot be. We especially welcome students interested in considerations of sexuality and the body, and the technologies and sciences that underwrite and make visible our embodied self-understandings.

We will mentor you through your first job interviews and we place a premium on making sure all our graduates secure a position. Graduates of the program will be well prepared to work in a range of related disciplines including art history, studio art, performance studies, American studies, curatorial/museum work, critical theory, art writing, as well as sexuality and gender studies.

Program Plan

72 credit hours total.  If entering with an M.A. or M.F.A., must complete an additional 40 credit hours. Only one or two courses of prior coursework will be accepted with approval by program director.

Required Core Courses, 9 credit hours

  • VS 501 Intro to Visual Studies (3)
  • VS 505 Tactics of Praxis (3)
  • VSXXX Critical Theory requirement (3)

Directed electives, 45 credit hours

  • 9 credit hours must be VS 595 Independent Study-advanced Reading
  • 36 credit hours should be interdisciplinary. Each course must be approved by the program director by letter for the file.

Dissertation Guidance, 12–18 credit hours

A minimum of 12 hours must be comprised of VS 695 Advanced Research and VS 700 Dissertaion Guidance. The remaining 6 credits may be dissertation guidance or approved electives.

  • VS 695/700
  • VS 695/700
  • VS 700 or elective

Ph.D. in Visual Studies Faculty:

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