James Elkins

elkins_phdArtists with PhDs

James Elkins

The studio-art PhD, or practice-based doctorate, is a hot topic in art instruction in the US. Other countries have had these degrees for several decades; in the UK there are up to 2,000 students currently enrolled in such programs, and there will soon be 10 universities in Australia that offer the degree. At the moment there are about 10 programs in the US and Canada, and another dozen more under development. It appears that the PhD in studio art will become the next MFA–that is, the expected terminal degree for artists who want to get jobs teaching. In twenty or thirty years’ time, it is likely that every major art school and department will offer the PhD. The degree is controversial wherever it exists, and there is a fair amount of resistance to it: there have been some stormy sessions on the subject at conferences. Most of the formative issues, from grading to accreditation, remain unresolved.

This book is the first of its kind in the US. It is meant as a resource to help artists, teachers, administrators, and students assess and compare the new programs. Part I is a selection of essays by the best-informed people on both sides of the Atlantic, including most of the principal players and institutions. Part II is a selection of excerpts of the PhD dissertations written by people who have graduated from such programs, so people can see the kind of art and scholarship the programs produce.


Here are the contents of Part I:
1: Judith Mottram, ‘Researching Research in Art and Design’
2: Timothy Emlyn Jones, ‘Research Degrees in Art and Design’
3: Henk Slager, ‘Art and Method’
4: Mick Wilson, ‘Four Theses Attempting to Revise the Terms of a Debate’
5: Victor Burgin, ‘Thoughts on ‘Research’ Degrees in Visual Arts Departments’
6: Timothy Emlyn Jones, ‘The Studio Art Doctorate in America’
7: George Smith, ‘The Non-Studio PhD for Visual Artists’
8: Hilde Van Gelder and Jan Baetens, ‘The Future of the Doctorate in the Arts’
9: James Elkins, ‘On Beyond Research and New Knowledge’
10: Charles Harrison, ‘When Management Speaks…’
11: James Elkins, ”The Three Configurations of Studio-Art PhDs’

Most of the literature justifying and defining these programs was written in the UK, although the programs can now be found around the world. This book has a double purpose: the selection of authors and artists is intended to span a wide range, showing how the PhD is implemented in different places; my own contributions are meant as polemics, because I am unconvinced by the rhetoric of ‘research’ and ‘new knowledge’ that continue to frame discussions on the subject. It seems to me there is an opportunity to reconfigure discussion in the US, and to remake these programs in a new mold.

New Academia Publishing is a peer-reviewed, print-on-demand initiative; the books may not show up in bookstores, but they are always quickly available through Amazon and other outlets.


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