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Primary and Secondary Areas



Aesthetics and Theory

This track is designed to develop in-depth knowledge and understanding of various schools of thought in contemporary aesthetics. Such an understanding is based on a firm grasp of the history of aesthetic thought and the historical evolution of its key concepts. It also includes a clear comprehension of art’s unique function in culture and its irreplaceable contribution to the development of self-consciousness, subjectivity, identity, and agency. The existence of this track in an interdisciplinary arts program reflects the idea that art and philosophy work best when they work together.


African Arts and Literatures

For this track, students may focus on traditional African arts, contemporary African arts, African literatures, African film, postcolonialism, diaspora studies, and global and transnational theories. The courses needed to complete a student’s primary or secondary area may be taken with a range of other Africanist professors across the College of Fine Arts and the College of Arts and Sciences, in the Schools of Art, Dance, Film, and Music, and the Departments of Anthropology, Classics and World Religions, English, Geography, History, Linguistics, Modern Languages, Political Science, and African Studies Program.


Professors in the African Arts and Literatures Track
  • Principal advisor: Andrea Frohne, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and School of Art + Design
  • Zelma Badu-Younge, Dance
  • Diane Ciekawy, Anthropology
  • Peter Githinji, Linguistics
  • Stephen Howard, Media Arts and Studies
  • Arthur Hughes, Modern Languages
  • Brandon Kendhammer, Political Science
  • Loren Lybarger, Classics and World Religions
  • Zakes Mda, English
  • Ghirmai Negash, English
  • Paschal Younge, Music



The Film track in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts provides students with knowledge of the key features of the Film Studies discipline. In particular, this entails an address of theory, history, and criticism. Furthermore, students are encouraged to pursue the Film Studies track with an interdisciplinary regard for how the art of cinema demands a consideration of all other disciplines that take an epistemological tact in their respective focus on visual art and culture.



PhD candidates who select music as their primary or secondary track have the opportunity to take courses with professors in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and School of Music. These courses consider music from a variety of complementary perspectives including cultural context, historical era, theoretical significance, formal features, and relationship with coexistent expressive cultures. Garrett Field, adviser for the music track, is an ethnomusicologist whose research focuses on music, literature, and political change in twentieth century Sri Lanka.


Performance Studies

Performance Studies emphasizes a critical investigation of performance as object and mode of analysis. Performance is conceived of broadly and includes dance, theater, performance art, music, performance in everyday life, and performative aspects of visual arts and media. Marina Peterson, advisor for the emphasis, is an anthropologist whose work focuses on performance, urban space, and experimental music. Students will create a course of study that draws on the arts, humanities, and social sciences.



Interdisciplinary Arts students with a primary or secondary focus in theater have the opportunity to study a wide range of topics in theater and drama with professors from the School of Interdisciplinary Arts, Theater Division, and Department of English. The focus is primarily in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but courses are also available in Elizabethan, Restoration, and eighteenth-century theater and drama.

In addition, students have the opportunity to learn about theater worldwide, with courses from experts in Southeast Asian puppetry, Japanese Taiko drumming, and East Asian drama. Finally, students can take related seminars in areas of Performance Studies to complete their theater studies. Recent dissertation topics have included studies of sound in performance, the plays of Erik Ehn, women in Balinese shadow puppetry, and performance of masculinity.


Visual Arts

This track focuses on the cultural contextualization and theoretical evaluation of the visual arts. While Professor Buchanan’s scholarly interests lie within the Western tradition, particularly from Classical Antiquity through Modernism, students who are interested in non-Western cultures and Post-Modernism can find a place in the program, since its curriculum requires taking courses outside of IARTS, particularly in the Art History department, where a wide range of scholarly interests are represented.