Methods Seminars are in-depth, interdisciplinary investigations of a particular problem or theme. These seminars focus on ways of knowing the world characteristic of the disciplines represented in the seminar, such that the forms or methods of investigation are as important as the subject matter itself.
This seminar is about critical theory, or the formal assumptions one makes in attempting to define the meaning and value of a work of art, literature, or design. The seminar will look at a series of sometimes overlapping, sometimes conflicting directions in contemporary critical theory, plus some theoretical directions that are now unfashionable, but still influential. The goal of the seminar is to help students understand the critical dialogue to the point that they can begin to evolve their own informed position, rather than either jump onto the latest critical bandwagon, or retreat into a "shut up and let me do my art (architecture, design)" stance. Those considering this seminar should keep in mind that it is not an artists' bull session or a course in "practical" criticism. It is a take-it-slow, but don't-take-it-easy course in the theoretical positions and attitudes that animate current critical dialogue, and in the intellectual sources of those theories. The positions the course will explore include the current Marxist-oriented "cultural" critique, psychoanalytic approaches, a sampling of gender-, sex-, and race-based positions, some of the latest "post-theory" groupings, plus a couple of over-the-hill positions that critics are fond of dumping on but still use: formalism and structuralism.