MFA in Visual Narrative

The MFA in Visual Narrative integrates the BU School of Visual Arts’ tradition of drawing with sequential art storytelling practices. This program allows students to craft stories that integrate written and visual language. The program is enhanced and augmented by partnerships with theater, communications, the humanities, and sciences. Graduate field-facing studio work and training in the history and theory of the medium are supplemented by individually tailored research areas derived from the wide range of resources offered by Boston University, including the Center for Antiracist Research, the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, and BU Libraries.

In the first year of study, students develop nonfiction narratives in an area of personal engagement and conceptual artistic interest, such as social justice, history, gender studies, or the natural and social sciences. The curriculum emphasizes visual sequencing in storytelling and multimodal narrative theory specific to the overlap between word and image. Through BU School of Visual Arts courses and University electives, students engage critically with the history of the discipline, including its role in galvanizing social messages and contributing to the way information is disseminated and made persuasive to mass audiences. Courses include Concept Studio and Visual Narrative Topics seminars, Professional Practice and Thesis seminars; upper-level Drawing, Printmaking, and Photography courses; and electives in the College of Fine Arts that cover Graphic Design, Typography, Motion Graphics, Film, Performance, and Acting.

Learning Outcomes

Students in the MFA in Visual Narrative program are expected to:

  • Develop an understanding of the potential of narrative when written and visual media overlap and work in tandem by applying knowledge gained through coursework to visual narrative works.
  • Develop a personal voice as a storyteller and communicate complex information that resonates with the intended audience emotionally and conceptually through both word and image.
  • Conduct background research and writing in humanities-based themes and contexts that inform and support individual graphic interpretation.
  • Build and implement with originality a drawing-based visual narrative practice informed by principles of design and observational and expressive drawing of the human figure in environments.
  • Develop a knowledge of digital media and its importance and potential for expanding and integrating the use of design, animation, and drawing in the field.
  • Create original graphic narratives as author and draftsperson that demonstrate development of a creative and critical voice informed by past precedent and contemporary practice. Have a familiarity with the history of graphic narratives and a sense of the possibilities for the future of the form.
  • Communicate their work to a professional field.

Program of Study

The MFA in Visual Narrative is a 60-unit program that requires an average of four terms to complete. Students may only enter in September.

The College of Fine Arts Policies for Graduate Students apply to this program. Students must earn a minimum of 60 course units in graduate-level coursework (500 level or above).

MFA in Visual Narrative Curriculum

CFA AR 810, 811, 812 Visual Narrative Concept Studio I, II, and III (4 units each) 12 units
CFA AR 813 Visual Narrative Thesis Studio (final term) 8 units
CFA AR 814 and 815 Visual Narrative Topics Seminar I and II (2 units each) 4 units
CFA AR 816 Visual Narrative Professional Development Seminar (fall only) 2 units
CFA AR 817 Visual Narrative Thesis Seminar (final term) 2 units
CFA AR 639 Figure Drawing 4 units
CFA AR 576 Motion Graphics 2 units
CFA AR 527 Drawing into Animation 4 units
CFA AR 500 Drawing Elective 2 units
CFA AR 710 Comics 4 units
Research and Writing Elective: Group A 4 units
Related History and Theory Elective: Group B 4 units
General and Studio Electives: Group C 8 units
Total units 60 units

Elective Options

Electives must be at the 500 level or above. They are chosen in consultation with a graduate faculty advisor, based on each student’s areas of interest and research. Students must have permission from the instructor and/or complete the course prerequisites.

  • CAS AA (African American Studies, 500 level or above)
  • CAS AH (Art History, 500 level or above)
  • CAS AM (American Studies, 500 level or above)
  • CAS AN (Anthropology, 500 level or above)
  • CAS EN (English, 500 level or above)
  • CAS HI (History, 500 level or above)
  • CAS PH (Philosophy, 500 level or above)
  • CAS RN (Religion and Religious Studies, 500 level or above)
  • COM (Journalism and Communications)
  • MET (Gastronomy; English; Urban Affairs)

Any 500-level or above CAS AH or COM FT course or any 500-level or above course that teaches: visual history or theory; the history or theory of comics or graphic novels; literary or dramatic theory; semiotics; film theory; media studies in consultation with an advisor of the Visual Narrative program.

Suggested courses in history of art and architecture include:

  • CAS AH 503 Art Historical Methods
  • CAS AH 504 Topics in Religion and the Visual Arts
  • CAS AH 531 Modern Asian Art in a Global Context
  • CAS AH 532 Japanese Print Culture
  • CAS AH 543 Latin American Art and the Cold War
  • CAS AH 574 Topics in African Art
  • CAS AH 586 Early Modern America: Visual Culture 1900–1930
  • CAS AH 591 Seminar in Photographic History
  • CAS AH 891 The Photobook
  • CAS AH 895 Contemporary Art and Globalization

Any 500-level or above COM FT course. Suggested courses include:

  • COM EM 500 Introduction to Emerging Media
  • COM EM 831 Critical Studies, History and Philosophy of Emerging Media
  • COM FT 536 Film Theory and Criticism
  • COM FT 547 Avant Garde Cinema
  • COM FT 548 Antonioni and Bergman
  • COM FT 549 The Profane
  • COM FT 550 Scandinavian Cinema
  • COM FT 560 The Documentary
  • COM FT 563 French New Wave
  • COM JO 721 Journalism Principles/Techniques

Electives can include further classes from groups A and B as well as other related courses at the 500 level and above, in consultation with an advisor. CFA AR and CFA TH electives at this level are also included.

Suggested courses include:

  • CFA AR 502 Branding
  • CFA AR 508 The Experimental Photograph
  • CFA AR 515 Digital Photo
  • CFA AR 517 Digital Printmaking: Ink & Pixel
  • CFA AR 518 Silkscreen Print
  • CFA AR 569 Art, Community, and Social Engagement
  • CFA AR 589 Interactive Design
  • CFA AR 595 Visual Systems
  • CFA AR 636 Anatomy and Figure Drawing
  • CFA AR 638 Drawing Concepts
  • CFA AR 747 Advanced Printmaking
  • CFA TH 653–654 Master Class (School of Theatre)

Additional courses in literature, narrative, and research:

  • CAS EN 510 Playwriting 1: Writing of Short Plays
  • CAS EN 512 Readings for Writers: Literary Nonfiction
  • CAS EN 517 Drama in Theory and Practice 1: Structure and the Script
  • CAS EN 537 Black Thought: Literary and Cultural Criticism in the African Diaspora
  • CAS EN 588 Studies in African American Literature
  • CAS EN 604 Historical Criticism 1
  • CAS EN 743 Narrative and Literary Conceptions of Time
  • CAS EN 745 Being Wrong in Nineteenth-Century American Literature
  • CAS EN 783 Modernist Gothic
  • CAS EN 785 Queer Theory: Power, Pleasure, Performance
  • CAS EN 792 Introduction to Recent Critical Theory and Method
  • CAS LS 576 Topics in Spanish American Literature
  • COM CM 707 Writing for Media Professionals
  • COM CM 750 Advanced Writing for Media Professionals
  • COM FT 519 Storyboarding
  • COM FT 557 American Independent Film, Part 2: The Second Generation
  • COM FT 558 American Independent Film, Part 3: Recent and Contemporary Work
  • COM FT 582 Writing the Narrative Short
  • COM FT 590 2D Animation Basics
  • COM JO 519 Narrative Radio
  • COM JO 527 Narrative Journalism
  • COM JO 535 Investigative and Project Reporting
  • COM JO 537 Advanced Visual Storytelling
  • COM JO 543 Rescuing Lost Stories: Writing Nonfiction Narratives from the Archives
  • GMS MA 735 Writing Ethnography in Medical Anthropology
  • MET EN 529 The Romantic Age: English Literature in the Age of Revolution
  • MET EN 530 The Romantic Age II
  • MET EN 535 Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry
  • MET EN 536 Twentieth-Century American Poetry
  • MET EN 543 The Nineteenth-Century English Novel
  • MET EN 544 The Modern British Novel
  • MET EN 545 The Nineteenth-Century American Novel
  • MET EN 546 The Modern American Novel
  • MET EN 547 Contemporary American Fiction
  • MET EN 550 Classics of British and American Literature
  • MET EN 552 English Drama from 1590 to 1642
  • MET HC 759 Health Communication
  • MET HC 761 Advanced Writing for Health Communicators
  • MET HC 762 Visual Communication in the Digital Health Age
  • MET LX 542 Language, Race, and Gender
  • MET ML 589 Nature’s Past: Histories of Environment and Society
  • MET ML 620 Food and Literature
  • MET ML 621 Researching Food History
  • MET ML 622 History of Food
  • MET ML 633 Readings in Food History
  • MET ML 642 Food Ethnography
  • MET ML 671 Food and Visual Culture
  • MET ML 672 Food and Art
  • MET ML 681 Food Writing for the Media
  • MET ML 706 Food and Gender
  • MET UA 546 Places of Memory: Historic Preservation Theory and Practice
  • MET UA 553 Documenting Historic Buildings and Landscapes
  • MET UA 560 City in the Media
  • MET UA 580 Boston Experience: The Role of Architecture in Creating the Sense of Place
  • MET UA 601 Urban Environmental Issues
  • MET UA 629 Urbanization and the Environment
  • STH TS 803 Literature and Ethics
  • WED LS 632 Graphic Novels