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The American Studies Program
For nearly three decades the American Studies Program has offered a rigorous, interdisciplinary course of graduate study at the College of William and Mary. The Program’s core faculty members all hold joint appointments - in Anthropology, Art History, English, History, Religious Studies, and Sociology - which ensures students both gain expertise in a variety of methods and perspectives for the study of cultures in the Americas and engage the vigorous intellectual debates at the heart of the field of American Studies. The Program’s course of study is individually driven, so students work closely with their advisors and other faculty in shaping curricula and research topics that best suit their interests. The Program offers three degree tracks: the Ph.D., the M.A./Ph.D., and the M.A.
The Program prepares broadly trained scholar-teachers who are excellently suited to American Studies professorships, disciplinarily based professorships, and a host of other posts in intellectual work. Recent dissertation topics have ranged from tomboys in American literature to Southern musicians’ autobiographies, from photography’s role in the emergence of journalism and documentary to celebrity in the late nineteenth century, and from Chicano muralists in Northern California to the politics of commemoration in the Civil Rights movement. Recent Master’s thesis topics have included women in the fishing industry along the Chesapeake, jazz and the civil rights movement, Muslim womanhood at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, and the commodification of New England. In recent years, American Studies graduates have gone on to positions at a wide variety of colleges and universities, including Duke University, Case Western Reserve, Temple University, Clemson University, Trinity College, several campuses of the Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Richmond.
The Program offers assistantships to funded M.A./Ph.D. and Ph.D. students that provide practical experiences in American Studies-related fields like archive and manuscript collections, editing, and museum research. All Ph.D. students receive teacher training and serve as teaching assistants, and most have the opportunity to teach a course of their own design after passing their Ph.D. qualifying exams.
The general mission of the graduate program is to prepare students for careers in which scholarly knowledge of and approaches to American cultures and society are requisite. These include professions in higher education, museums, publishing, government, and other areas requiring rigorous, interdisciplinary investigation.
The M.A.-only program offers excellent opportunities for persons seeking advanced study in the Liberal Arts for its own sake as well as to enhance preparation for careers interpreting American life to far-reaching audiences. Some students may also undertake the M.A. in preparation for entrance into a doctoral program.
The J.D./M.A., a joint program leading to the J.D. in the Marshall-Wythe School of Law and the M.A. in American Studies is designed to encourage the interdisciplinary study of law and other aspects of American society and culture. For some students, the program may foster investigation of American legal history within the broader framework of U.S. cultural and intellectual history. Others may pursue inquiries on broad historical or contemporary themes, exploring the interplay between law and culture in forming institutions, policies, and thought within the United States.
The M.A./Ph.D. and Ph.D. programs are designed for students who wish to pursue original, interdisciplinary research and whose professional goals require a doctorate.
Students must hold a bachelor’s level degree from an accredited institution of higher learning to enter the M.A., J.D./M.A., or M.A./ Ph.D. program. M.A. degrees in the humanities and social sciences are generally acceptable preparation for admission to the Ph.D.; however, all M.A. transcripts are reviewed by the admissions committee prior to acceptance. Students seeking admission to these programs may usually transfer up to six credit hours earned in another graduate program at an accredited institution toward their degree requirements.
Beyond the required core courses in American Studies, graduate students have wide latitude to choose a program of study appropriate to their interests. Our special areas of strength include: African American Studies, Art History, Early American History and Culture, Law and American Culture, Material Culture, Popular Culture, Ritual Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, Visual Studies, and Religious Studies. Together with an advisor, students will design an educational program for themselves that is both individualized and coherent.
All applicants are required to submit test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, a sample of writing up to 20 pages in length, and a response to an additional question. American Studies requires candidates to submit three scores for a GRE test taken within five years prior to application: Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing. The Miller Analogies test is not acceptable. Foreign applicants must also report scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The application deadline for students intending to begin graduate work in the fall semester is January 1. There are no spring admissions. Only applicants intending to enter as full-time doctoral students are considered for financial funding support.
Programs and Course Descriptions
Description of Courses
Unless otherwise noted, all courses are graded using standard grading [A, B, C, D, F] scheme (See Grading and Academic Progress in the section entitled ‘Graduate Regulations ’) and may not be repeated for credit (See Repeated Courses requirements in the section entitled ‘Graduate Regulations ’).