MFA Curriculum

The MFA curriculum can be completed in four semesters of full-time (in residence) study, with a fifth or sixth semester optional at either the faculty or student’s request. The MFA degree requires 60 semester credit hours distributed as follows:

Major Studio 36

Liberal Arts – General Ed 12

Elective Studio 12

Total 60

The recommended semester course load for MFA students is 9 to 15 credit hours. Course loads over this limit must have prior written approval by the graduate director.

Normal Progression

1st SemesterStudio Workshop & Studio Seminar I (9)Studio Elective (3)

LS/AH Seminar (3)

2nd Semester

Studio Workshop & Studio Seminar II (9)

Studio Elective (3)

LS/AH Seminar (3)

3rd SemesterThesis Preparation & Studio Seminar III (9)Studio Elective (3)

LS/AH Seminar (3)

4th Semester

Thesis & Studio Seminar IV (9)

Studio Elective (3)

LS/AH Seminar (3)

Courses Descriptions

GS601/GS602: Studio Workshop
(9 credits)
As the cornerstone of the MFA program at MCA, the Studio Workshop is the self-directed component for the MFA candidate’s production of work. Candidates conduct their own personal exploration of concept and technique in the art-making process under the guidance of the Graduate Faculty. During the course of the Studio Workshop, students are encouraged to consider the social, cultural, and physical context of their work as central to its interpretation. The studio seminar component of the MFA program brings together graduate students to build a common ground and develop a graduate community. This may include trips to galleries or museums, group critiques and critiques with visiting artists, videos, slides, readings, and discussions of contemporary issues. It also serves to develop written materials, such as the artist’s statement, professional applications, and thesis in conjunction with input from other faculty.

GS701: Thesis Preparation
(9 credits)
In the third semester, MFA candidates are required to take Thesis Preparation. Thesis Preparation involves all of the components of the Studio Workshop with the additional component of honing in on a specific body of work or method of practice from which the final thesis work evolves.

GS702: Thesis
(9 credits)
Pending successful completion of Thesis Preparation, the acceptance of the Thesis Proposal, and the Advancement to Candidacy Review, MFA candidates are able to move on to the Thesis coursework. The Thesis coursework is the culmination of the candidate’s work at MCA. Candidates are required to have an exhibition, a formal oral defense, and submit a written thesis document in which the historical, social, and cultural frameworks of their work are addressed.

HU600: History of Aesthetics
(3 credits)
The philosophy of art from the Greeks to the modern period is examined in this seminar. The Western philosophical tradition’s changing treatment of the artist and the work of art is the focus of analysis and discussion. The metaphysical status of art, theories of expression and representation and the social value of the artist are some of the topics examined through the readings.

HU610: Modernism and Post Modernism
(3 credits)
Beginning with theories of what constitutes the dominant themes and issues of the modern period, this seminar explores the writers who have come to be associated with post modernism. Issues concerning art and the artist are examined in the work of such thinkers as: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, Blanchot, Lyotard, Cixous and Kristeva.

HU613: Cultural/Visual Studies
(3 credits)
Introductory survey of foundational cultural studies theories and methodologies since 1965. Course will apply theories to various texts (literary, cinematic, visual, musical) so that students move beyond abstractions and toward praxis. Short essays punctuate discussions and comprise final grade.

HU615: Critical Writing
(3 credits)
This course is an exploration of writing as an art form. Through a variety of different genres, styles and imaginative composition, students learn to develop writing strategies for communication and expression.

HU620: The Artist and the Critic
(3 credits)
The place of the critic and art criticism is the central issue of this seminar. Writings by and about artists constitute the reading material. Both historical and contemporary sources are examined.

HU623: Cultural/Visual Studies 2 Picture Theory
(3 credits)
This is a follow-up course to HU613 and concerns contemporary theories of the visual sign, sign systems, and the critical issues surrounding visual imagery. The course explores the major genres of painting (history, religious, still life, genre, landscape) as a foundation for the discussion of visual semiotics. Other modes and media are explored as the course closes (photography, sculpture, film, etc.).  The course asks students to produce a term project (artistic/critical) that engages one or many of the texts discussed in the course.

HU625 Mind in Matter: Material Culture Theory, Method, and Practice
(3 credits)
Simply put, the study of material culture is the study of “things”—human-made or human-modified products.  These “things” can include clothing, your grandmother’s heirloom jewelry, a formally landscaped garden, a painting, or the contents of a trash can.  Scholars of material culture investigate these cultural products as a way to uncover the beliefs, values, attitudes, needs, hopes and fears of a particular society at a particular moment.  This course introduces students to the methodology and theory of material culture studies through readings, discussion, and research.  Most importantly, we will interrogate the ways material culture methodology may be used by practicing artists.

HU630: Topics in Aesthetics
(3 credits)
This seminar is a concentration on particular issues, themes or problems relevant to aesthetic theory.

AH631: Modern Architecture
(3 credits)
Trends and styles in Europe and the U.S. from Jefferson to World War II are explored, including Art Nouveau, the skyscraper, Wright, California modern, the Bauhaus, and Art Deco. Video and site visits may be offered. Each student will also complete a research assignment that is determined after consultation with the instructor.

AH632: Modern Architecture 2
(3 credits)
This course examines the developments in Europe and the Americas from the 1930s to the present, including planning concepts. Acceptance of the International Style led to the Postmodern reaction. Appreciation of leaders such as Johnson, Saarinen, Kahn, Pei and Gehry is enhanced by video and site visits. Each student will also complete a research assignment that is determined after consultation with the instructor.

HU650: Special Topics: Representing Trauma
(3 credits)
Can the horrors of war, genocide, violence and loss be represented? What is at stake in representing experiences often referred to as unrepresentable? This graduate seminar will examine attempts to portray psychological and cultural effects of traumatic events through a variety of 20th-century fictions, films, graphic novels and autobiographies. Reading selections from trauma theory, students will be introduced to the interdisciplinary field of trauma studies. In addition, students will have the opportunity to compare theoretical perspectives from scholars of trauma, violence, memory, gender, race, class and sexuality. Major questions to be discussed include but are not limited to: What challenges does trauma pose to representation? What are the ethical and political implications of defining and representing trauma in relation to significant historical events and personal past? How do contemporary artists respond to trauma and attempt to represent it? The course will encompass 20th-century catastrophes such as war and genocide as well as everyday experiences of violence and loss.

HU654: Special Topics: Film Authorship
(3 credits)
This seminar will examine the ways in which authorship has been defined and employed in cinema. While personal style and artistic reputation were used to indicate quality as early as Georges Méliès and D.W. Griffith in the silent era, our study of authorship will begin with the critical dialogue that coincided with the growing intellectual influence of film scholars and critics in the postwar era. Beginning with the early conceptualizations of authorship by André Bazin and Andrew Sarris, each week we will focus on a case study that allows us to engage an auteurist approach by analyzing films while also exploring the ways in which assigning authorial status in a collaborative medium have been complicated and contested over the years.

HU655 Special Topics: Introduction to Media and Cultural Studies: Focus on the Civil Rights and Power Movements
(3 credits)
This course will provide an introduction to the fundamental theoretical concepts that define the field of media studies. Once the basics are established, course discussion and readings will explore several modes of media studies analysis, including feminist, multi-cultural and political modes. Students will be asked to use these analytical methodologies to interpret a range of cultural texts, including Meridian by Alice Walker, Without Sanctuary online musarium, editorial cartoons from the Black Panther and Gidra newspapers, as well as the National Civil Rights Museum.