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MA Critical Theory and the Arts at SVA offers an intensive yearlong program of study for students with an inquiring, edgy involvement in the problems and questions of making art today and with the relation of these questions to contemporary social conflict and reality. The program has been developed in the recognition that: 1. Thinking about art has never before been so protean, so broadly inventive and urgently central to the whole of social, philosophical and political reflection. Every major area of thought now turns considerable attention to art in expectation that art will provide the key to solving its central questions; 2. In art itself, every aspect of its reality presents dynamic conflicts and puzzles that demand theoretical reflection; 3. What the arts once were, they soon enough will no longer be; in large measure, they have already been irreversibly transformed.

For artists and graduate students from several fields of inquiry, the need to collaboratively understand what has happened, what is happening and what is at stake is salient. In the course of the year, students gain the broad orientation needed to deeply engage this situation through an integrated program in art theory and aesthetics, social history and the history of art, political philosophy, psychoanalysis and social theory.

The focal points of the program are two proseminars: The Situation of the Arts: The Level of the Problem, and the Serious Times lecture series, which poses the question, Why doesn’t the United States make social progress? Discussions are led by New York-based intellectuals and internationally acclaimed visiting artists. MA Critical Theory and the Arts graduates become members of the Serious Times lecture series and part of the program’s intellectual community.

2016 – 2017 student population

8 matriculated students

Department chair

Robert Hullot-Kentor

Core faculty members 

Jeremy Cohan (sociology), Bettina Funcke (writer, critic), Robert Hullot-Kentor (philosopher), Brian Kloppenberg (psychoanalyst), Joshua Pineda (philosophy and aesthetics), Antonio Y. Vázquez-Arroyo (political scientist)

Recent visiting faculty

Alhelí de María Alvarado-Díaz (intellectual historian), Frances Fox Piven (sociologist, activist), Apollinaire Scherr (dance critic), Sebastian Traenkle (philosopher), Nicole Wittenberg (painter)

Artists and lecturers

Students of Critical Theory and the Arts have visited with: Artist Protection Fund/Scholar Rescue Fund, Nicholson Baker (author), Mowry Baden (artist), Jasper Bernes (poet, activist), Felix Bernstein (writer, artist), Claire Bishop (art historian), Stephen Blum (ethnomusicologist), Albert K. Butzel (environmental lawyer), Milton Cantor (historian), Paul Chan (artist), Tony Conrad (artist), Jefferson Cowie (historian), Douglas Crimp (art critic, art historian), Iris Dankemeyer (philosopher), Jodi Dean (media critic), Oliver Decker (sociologist), Benj DeMott (editor), Mark Dudzic (labor activist), Eric Foner (historian), Richard Foreman (playwright, director), Steve Fraser (historian), Joshua Freeman (historian), Melanie Gilligan (artist), Kenneth Goldmsith (poet), James Hansen (scientist), Doug Henwood (journalist), Christoph Hesse (film scholar), Human Rights Watch, Martin Jay (historian), Michael Katz (historian), Ira Katznelson (historian), John Knight (artist), Sam Lewitt (artist), Aaron Likness (pianist), Tan Lin (poet), Stefan Litwin (composer), Sven Lütticken (art critic), Barry C. Lynn (author), Paul Mattick Jr. (philosopher), Richard Maxwell (playwright), Sarah Michelson (choreographer), Michael Morse (composer), Spyros Papapetros (architectural historian), Pomerium (choral ensemble), Moishe Postone (historian), Seth Price (artist), Yasmil Raymond (curator), Ariana Reines (poet), The Roosevelt Institute, David Salle (artist), Martin Scherzinger (composer, media scholar), Michael Smith (artist), Imri Talgam (pianist), AK Thompson (activist, author), Monica de la Torre (poet), Joan Waltemath (painter), Christopher Williams (artist), Georg Windeck (architect), Eli Zaretsky (author), Sebastian Zeidler (art historian)

Department website

More information

SVA Admissions: 212.592.2107 | [email protected]

Media requests

SVA Communication: 212.592.2010 | [email protected]


209 East 23 Street, New York, NY 10010-3994 | Tel 212.592.2000 | sva.edu

School of Visual Arts | 209 East 23 Street, NY, NY 10010-3994 | Tel: 212.592.2000 | Fax: 212.725.3587