What is Visual Studies?

Since antiquity, vision has been both celebrated and distrusted as a source of knowledge. Visual signs and systems are at once the oldest and newest means of communication and arguably, the most crucial for 21st-century research and scholarship. Visual studies demands an interdisciplinary approach that addresses diverse media while critically examining the practices of seeing, showing, and knowing, whether in art museums or photo albums, in movie multiplexes or magnetic resonance labs, on desktop computers or in digital image libraries. There are few areas of study that form as much of a crossroads for USC's strategic interests in globalization, communication, and urbanization.

Why a Graduate Certificate Program?

This certificate provides graduate students with the tools and knowledge necessary to think critically about visual objects and experiences and to bring that thinking to bear on their ongoing scholarly work and doctoral research. Students will combine the sustained analysis of specific representations with attention to broader philosophical frameworks and historical conditions.

The Visual Studies Graduate Certificate is designed for USC graduate students whose scholarly work includes a significant focus on visual culture. Rather than attending to visual forms (e.g. art, film, photography, advertising, digital media, illustrated books) in isolation from one another, the certificate considers the overlaps between images, texts and material objects as well as the alternative modes of interpretation such overlaps demand.


How Do I Enroll in VSGC?

Graduate students wishing to enroll in the Visual Studies Graduate Certificate should email VSRI@USC.EDU

Upcoming Events

Summer MDA 599: Atlas Fever: From the Wunderkammer to the Database


Registration is now open for the USC VSRI-affiliated summer seminar taught by W. J. T. Mitchell (University of Chicago) and Justin Underhill (University of Southern California). The seminar, titled "Atlas Fever: From the Wunderkammer to the Database," will be held at the Getty Research Institute. What is involved in trying to comprehend a totality with a visual array? This seminar will investigate practices of visual display that construct totalizing assemblages of multiple images, texts, and objects in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of a situation, period, or body of knowledge. For a full course description, see here.





  • Visual Studies Graduate Certificate Program
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