Narratives neither recount things “as they really happened” nor reveal the “true” meaning of artefacts, cultures, and lived experiences.

Narratives, rather, construct the literary and spatial figures that render all these available to our attention as sites of projection, dispute, and transformation. The Domain of Narratives of the MDes Program provides students with the opportunity to explore and articulate interpretations of the social, cultural, historical, technical, and political contexts of design. As such, it is directed towards those for whom advanced study can serve as preparation for future work in three general areas:

  1. The development of an intellectual foundation for the pursuit of careers in journalism, digital media, publishing, or curation related to the design professions.
  2. The cultivation of theoretical and historical frameworks for future design practices and pedagogies.
  3. The subsequent pursuit of a PhD degree in the history and philosophy of design, architecture, cities, or landscapes, or in adjacent fields that include the study of constructed environments.

The program is structured around a curriculum that includes offerings taught by the history/theory faculty as well as courses in digital media and design theory led by practitioners. Students are encouraged to look across departments for their courses in order to foster interdisciplinary pursuits. During their residence, students in the Domain of Narratives also have access to an unparalleled array of archives, museums, centers, and libraries at Harvard University.

Narratives Proseminar: Word & Image as Narrative Structure

In our Proseminar, we will grapple with a selection of critical discussions on word and image as these have been formulated in aesthetic philosophy, literary criticism, media studies, and art and architectural history. The encounter between graphic form and written discourse has been construed as a seamless exchange, a contentious rivalry, or an outright war between incommensurable modes of expression. By setting this encounter against design-related tropes and themes (these might include, but are not limited to, Sign, Figura, Shadow, Threshold, and City), we will assess a debate that ranges from the doctrine of ut pictura poesis to visuality and textuality, the rhetoric of the image, and the mediation of cultural techniques.


Domain Head

Ed Eigen, Senior Lecturer in the History of Landscape and Architecture