American Studies

General Goals

  • Majors will learn to read critically and identify and assess the central arguments of all kinds of cultural texts.
  • Majors will learn to approach materials, topics, and the past, in general, from an interdisciplinary perspective and learn how to ask sharp and revealing questions about sources and the connections between sources.
  • Majors will learn to distinguish primary and secondary sources and understand how different kinds of texts operate and communicate.
  • Majors will learn how to read, recognize, and use important analytical concepts and important theories in cultural studies and American Studies.
  • Major will learn how to contact research and use the library and its print documents, digital archives, and Internet sources.
  • Majors will learn to organize and collect data and write clear, concise, and incisive analytical papers, including a capstone essay of approximately 5,000 words based with proper footnotes and bibliography based on an array of primary sources and demonstrating original argument.

Special Goals

  • Learn how to read culture and understand how culture in all its forms– written texts, art, music, film, and architecture — reflects, shapes, and represents how we live and understand the world on a daily basis. Also understand how we use culture to communicate and the central place of power in the creation of culture.
  • Understand the broad and enduring debates, key concepts, and ideas that drove American history and the documents speeches, laws, novels, biographies, autobiographies, songs, poems, painters, films, television shows, web-sites, blogs, sport events, and buildings which represent (and argue about) them.
  • Understand the myths of America the dream, the notion of classlessness, the frontier, innocence, and progress and how these myths shape and distort reality.
  • Explore the historical role of the media in creating and disseminating ideas about the nation and about citizenship, democracy, group identity, and individual identity.
  • Understand the long, deep, and contested multi-culturalism of America, how different groups have made the nation, and the central struggles for inclusion in the politics of the country as well as in the representations of the nation and the good life.
  • Recognize the role of class and economic structures in determining and shaping American lives and the nation’s politics, society, and culture.
  • Understand the long history of American power from imperialism to war to the soft power of culture in the global order.
  • Examine the role of public and private places and place-making in creating American identities and how the built environment (and other dynamics) are shaped by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, public policy, transportation, and community networks.