View the American Studies Faculty.
The American Studies Program
The American Studies program engages students in examination of the culture and society of the United States, past and present. As a nation of immigrants, the United States has always been a pluralistic society, embracing diverse racial and ethnic groups in mutual encounter and conflict. It has also been a society in endless change, owing to transformations wrought by geographical expansion, democracy, industrialization, urbanization, and the pressures of war and international politics. These forces for change have uprooted whole peoples, such as the forcible removal of Native Americans from their lands, and have touched the most intimate realms of life, such as the relations between men and women in the home.
Yet, in the midst of these large movements of history, many Americans have forged distinctive cultures–ways of thinking, feeling and acting–that express their basic values and give meaning to their institutions and everyday social practices. Such cultures reflect, in part, the different experiences of people, according to their race, gender, and class. But they may also attest to Americans’ participation in a larger ideological heritage, shaped by ideals of democracy and equality that have been affirmed in major political movements, such as the American Revolution, and articulated in art, literature, music, and films.
The American Studies program offers an opportunity to explore the commonalities and differences among Americans through an interdisciplinary course of studies. All students are expected to develop a solid grounding in history as a basis and context for their other investigations of American life. Working closely with their advisor, students will assemble a set of courses, designed both to represent the diversity of cultures and social forms within the United States and to pursue significant themes or questions in depth. In developing the major, students may also take up comparative perspectives on the United States, considering, for example, African American life within the context of the black diaspora, or the American experience of industrial capitalism as a variant on a general model in the West.
Programs and Course Descriptions