Art Critical Studies Essay Writer

Critical Studies Program

Unique Academic Program at Cranbrook Academy of Art

Cranbrook is a small, graduate-only institution with a unique academic program that complements our 10 studio departments. Both our studios and our Academy-wide programs are free from conventional classes and traditional grades. This allows us to be specialized and flexible — responsive to student and faculty interests. Our academic program is both rigorous and yet approachable. The program takes the form of lectures, discussions, workshops, student-initiated symposia, critiques with visiting curators, dinners with guest thinkers and debates in the studio kitchens. Our Academy-wide academic programs are open to all students at the Academy —regardless of their primary studio department — and are designed to foster inter-departmental exchange.

Our Critical Studies program is the central piece of our academic program. Each semester, we bring a visiting Critical Studies Fellow to be in residence at the Academy. Selected for their perspectives on contemporary theory and culture studies, the visiting Fellows present public lectures, conduct student discussion groups and serve as an active presence in studio critiques and reviews. The visiting fellows are chosen each year to reflect the most current intellectual discourse within contemporary architecture, art, and design.

Flor Widmar (Ceramics ’17) with Fall 2016 Critical Studies Fellow Alpesh Patel. Photo by Sarah Blanchette (Photography ’17).

 

SPRING 2018 CRITICAL STUDIES FELLOW: John Corso Esquivel

John Corso Esquivel is a critic and art historian based in Metro Detroit. His current book project, Feminist Subjectivities in Fiber Art and Craft: Shadows of Affect, looks at eight case studies from the U.S. and Latin America through the lens of affect theory. The book will join the Routledge Research in Gender and Art series.

Corso Esquivel examines political dynamics within a wide range of contemporary art and visual culture. His essays have appeared in the Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts, The Brooklyn Rail, BE Magazine, ART21 Magazine, Mosaic, RACAR: The Canadian Art Review, Art Papers, and numerous exhibition catalogs. He has contributed exhibition and book reviews to Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, Criticism, Art in America, The Huffington Post, Art Papers, and Hyperallergic.

Corso Esquivel is currently the Doris and Paul Travis Associate Professor of Art History at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He sits on the Board of Directors of the Telluride Association, an educational nonprofit with branches at Cornell University and the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor. In the fall of 2016, he served as a sabbatical replacement for Beverly Fishman in Cranbrook Academy of Art’s Painting Department, where he is still a regular visitor.

Corso Esquivel received his Ph.D. in the History of Art and Visual Studies from Cornell University in 2009. He earned an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2003), an MA in art history from Tufts (2003), and a BA with honors in art from Williams College (1997). In 2013-14, he participated in the CUE Foundation and the AICA-USA’s Young Art Critic Mentoring Program.

At Cranbrook, Corso Esquivel will offer seminars on Feminist and Queer Theory, as well as Race, Ethnicity, and Textuality. He will leverage his training in Writing in the Disciplines to support critical and professional writing across the Academy.


FALL 2017 CRITICAL STUDIES FELLOW: Heather Davis

“Art and Design and the Anthropocene: What Happens When People Stop Being Polite and Start Getting Real About Climate Change”

Our Fall Critical Studies and Humanities Fellow is Heather Davis, a writer and researcher based in Montreal. Her current book project, Plastic: The Afterlife of Oil, under contract with Duke University Press, examines the intimate manifestation of our cultural fixation with and dependency upon oil through the materiality of plastic. Davis has held postdoctoral fellowships and visiting appointments at Duke University, Penn State, UCLA, NYU and the California Institute for the Arts. She is the editor of Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies (Open Humanities Press, 2015) and Desire Change: Contemporary Feminist Art in Canada (MAWA and McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017). She has written widely for art and academic publications including Third Text, Camera Obscura, PhiloSOPHIA, Take On India, Camera Austria and numerous book chapters and exhibition catalogues. She is also the co-curator of Plastic Entanglements: Aesthetics, Materials, Politics which will be on view at Penn State in January 2018 and then will travel to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Smith College Museum of Art and the Chazen Museum of Art.

While at Cranbrook, Davis will focus on the uncomfortable inheritances of living in the Anthropocene, examining the ways in which how we think about the world literally produces the geologic and biologic conditions in which we find ourselves. In particular, she will explore the legacies of plastic and white supremacy in producing what has come to be known as the Anthropocene.

 

 

 

 

As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites, it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.

Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.

“There is a knack to it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to work it out. No one tells you how to put together an argument and push yourself from a 60 to a 70, but once you to get grips with how you’re meant to construct them, it’s simple.”

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Poke holes

The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand (whatever it may be). This means going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale.

“You need to be using your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling How to Write Better Essays. “You’re not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s where the marks lie.”

But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, it’s simple: you need to “poke holes” in the texts you’re exploring and work out the ways in which “the authors aren’t perfect”.

“That can be an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it?

“The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 3, but you are going to be able to say: ‘There are issues with these certain accounts, here is how you might resolve those’. That’s the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”

Critique your own arguments

Once you’ve cast a critical eye over the texts, you should turn it back on your own arguments. This may feel like going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the key to drawing out developed points.

“We’re taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument,” Squirrell continues. “Then you get to university and you’re told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would be. Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that.”

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Fine, use Wikipedia then

The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.

“I genuinely disagree,” says Squirrell. “Those on the other side say that you can’t know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on a subject, or you want to find a scattering of secondary sources, it can be quite useful. I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.”

Focus your reading

Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A book may be listed, but that doesn’t mean you need to absorb the whole thing.

Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything out of it because you’re trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph,” he says.

You also need to store the information you’re gathering in a helpful, systematic way. Bryan Greetham recommends a digital update of his old-school “project box” approach.

“I have a box to catch all of those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and put them in the box so I don’t lose them. Then when I come to write, I have all of my material.”

There are a plenty of online offerings to help with this, such as the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero, and, for the procrastinators, there are productivity programmes like Self Control, which allow users to block certain websites from their computers for a set period.

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Look beyond the reading list

“This is comparatively easy to do,” says Squirrell. “Look at the citations used in the text, put them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and decide whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on Google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work you’re writing about – some of those will be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”

And finally, the introduction

The old trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the art of writing an effective opener.

“Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.”

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