School of Studies in Creative Arts


This document provides details of the Graduate Diploma in Arts Criticism to be offered from the first semester of 1999.

Admission Requirements

A minimum of a three-year undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification gained at a recognised tertiary institution. Non graduates with substantial work experience may also apply.

Applications will be made directly to the School of Studies in Creative Arts. Selection will be based on the application and interview by a panel of staff and representatives of the industry.

The Graduate Diploma of Arts Criticism, to be offered by the School of Studies in Creative Arts, is directed towards those currently working in arts criticism and those who wish to become proficient in this practice. Entry will be open to graduates with some allowance for work experience in the area. It is expected that most students will be part-time.

The Diploma will require the completion of four core and four elective subjects. Each subject involves one hour of lecture and two hours of tuition. Students must successfully complete at least two core subjects before enrolling in any elective subject. Each subject will require written assessment of up to 4,000 words.

The following subjects are liable to change before the course is officially advertised. Only a selection will be available in any one year.


Critical Paradigms

Identify critical strategies and their appropriate targets

This subject examines the range of approaches that might be taken in subjecting a work to criticism. Particular attention is given to the strategies used for forming and expressing a critical opinion. These strategies include description, hermeneutics, biographical exposition, subjective response, political analysis, formalism and examination. Students will gain experience in the identification of different strategies and ways in which they might be applied to different targets. This subject will include an introduction to major paradigms of critical theory, such as modernism, postmodernism, deconstruction, feminism and postcolonialism.

Professional Ethics and Legal Issues

Understand the legal and ethical issues that relate to the professional practice of criticism

This subject covers the problems that might arise from publishing criticism. Students will be introduced to the legal parameters of defamation. The responsibility of the critic as gatekeeper will be discussed with reference to limits of payola, special treatment, nurturing of struggling artists and peer relations. Reference will also be made to problems of cultural sensitivity, such as when non-Aboriginal writers review indigenous work. The responsibilities of those involved in other forms of assessment, such as peer review and awarding art prizes will be covered.

Critical Functions

Gain awareness of the various roles a critic plays in society

This subject concerns the different functions that a critic is called upon to perform. The sociology of criticism is presented as a theoretical framework for examining its different incarnations. This sociology includes the positive and negative images of the critic: the critic’s role as a gatekeeper in the maintenance of social order and the rituals associated with scapegoating and mimetic rivalry.

Particular attention is given to the reference groups that participate in criticism: specialist and general audiences, institutions, artists/producers, artistic peers and other critics. These matters are examined particularly as they affect the level of specialisation desired in writing style. It is in this subject that students will be able to focus on developing an ability to read their own responses.

Critical Practices

Develop skills in adapting criticism to different formats

This subject familiarises students with the different formats for criticism. The range includes the precise journalistic format, longer critical essay, media commentary, catalogue essay, online criticism and media release. Attention is paid to writing style and ways of presenting the critical verdict in textual form. The development of a sophisticated critical lexicon will be encouraged. Students will also be offered the opportunity to develop their media skills, with particular regard to oral commentary. Consideration will be given to the regime of critical practice, which includes maintaining contact with the field and other commentary, meeting deadlines and dealing with editors.


Critical Domains

This subject allows for a specialised study of a particular discipline of arts criticism. Students will be made aware of the issues particular to a specific domain of critical commentary. The focus of this subject will vary between:

Visual Arts Criticism

Literary Criticism

Performance Criticism

Film Criticism

One of these areas will be available each semester. Their focus will be on the singular features of the medium, such how to train the eye for visual arts criticism.

New Media Criticism

This subject develops a range of critical responses to digital arts, such as multimedia and web site design, for which there is no established critical culture. It applies critical paradigms discussed in core subjects to a new field of artistic endeavour. In a pro-active manner, it attempts to ‘stake out’ a critical field, setting up issues such as the ‘multimedia sublime’ and the ‘aesthetics of cool’. Consideration is also given to the formats provided for criticism on the Internet.

Case Studies & Hypotheticals

The material for this subject comes from the history of criticism, both real and speculative. Well-documented disputes involving critics, such as the Ruskin-Whistler case, are covered. A hands-on involvement in such issues is enabled by a series of hypotheticals, in which students take on roles of the different interests at stake in the act of criticism (critic, artists, promoter, editor and reader). Active involvement in these cases should stimulate an understanding of the different interests at stake in the act of criticism. Exposure to problems that arise in this hypothetical environment should prove useful in dealing with issues that arise later in practice. Problems may include dealing with critical inaccuracies, responding to hoaxes, and striking a balance between writerly excellence and broader cultural responsibility.

New Critical Practices

New forms of criticism are covered in this subject. The emerging practice of ficto-criticism is given particular focus. This subject covers alternative relationships between the writer, artist and audience. The act of critical writing as a creative endeavour in its own right is developed here. This subject considers the use of autobiography in criticism and imaginative responses to the critical object.

The Critical Craft

‘Craftsmanship’ is arguably the most traditional focus of criticism. This subject takes in its purview the field of writing from the time of the Arts and Craft Movement in late nineteenth-century England to contemporary craft discourse supported by the Australia Council. It also deals outside craft disciplines per se to the critical application of craft values in other arts practice, such as literature and film. This attention is framed by awareness of the formal responsibilities involved in ‘product reviewing’ as opposed to the more intuitive responses of aesthetic criticism.