Overview of the American Studies Curriculum
Our courses examine American cultural life in the past and present, always with the aim of helping students better understand their experiences and their society. We study how Americans have thought about and experienced such matters as gender, ethnic, racial, and regional identities, humor, religion, crime and violence, childhood, family, the built environment, community, mental health and sickness, cultural ideals, and cultural criticism.
In an American Studies class you will encounter a wide range of cultural sources for study. You may read one or more novels or autobiographies, examine movies and television as cultural documents, consider the visual arts and music, or view examples of the built environment. You will also be exposed to the most recent scholarship in the rapidly developing interdisciplinary field of American culture studies.
Critical thinking and writing skills are the warp and woof of all our courses. All exams in American Studies are essay exams. All classes emphasize discussion and classroom dialogue rather than pure lecture. Students regularly write response papers in which they critically evaluate and synthesize what they have read and discussed. Students regularly conduct library and ethnographic research and write up the results of that research in ways which integrate their own findings with ideas and evidence presented in the classroom.
In our General Education courses, you will study the broader dimensions of American culture, as it developed in the past and as it exists in the present.
Our upper-division electives are open to all students with an interest or background in the specific topic. These courses reflect the research or interest specialty of the faculty giving the course, so you will receive the benefit of both the professor's specialized knowledge and his or her enthusiasm for the topic.
Department of American Studies Student Learning Goals
American Studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines culture?the shared system of beliefs, behavior, symbols, and material objects through which Americans have given meaning to their lives. Our courses examine American cultural life in the past and present, always with the aim of helping students better understand their experiences and their society. Our curriculum has consistently been based on a demand for rigorous conceptualization, an interdisciplinary approach, and a commitment to examining American cultural diversity in historical perspective.
At the undergraduate and graduate level, the development of our program has been guided by clearly stated learning goals. By majoring in American Studies:
- Students will demonstrate an understanding of the concept of culture by analyzing the functioning of American cultural texts within historic contexts, using knowledge developed by different disciplines.
Students will express an understanding of American cultural diversity that recognizes the historical construction and functioning of categories of identity such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, or region.
- Students will become informed citizens who understand American political and social issues within historical, cultural, and global contexts.
Students will interpret and analyze critically a range of cultural documents and expressive forms.
Students will design and carry out an original interdisciplinary research project exploring American culture that makes use of both primary and secondary sources.
Students will communicate complex ideas about American culture in clear and well-organized written papers and oral presentations.
Specifically, American studies students at CSUF learn how to become critical and informed citizens by:
- Studying the dynamics of a constructive multiculturalism that celebrates the distinctiveness of every group in our society yet also claims common ground for conversations between them
- Participating in classes that, through a creative mixture of lecture and discussion, encourage students to think critically about their own culture in the past and present;
- Learning to interpret, discuss, and critically analyze a wide range of cultural documents and expressive forms?from "high" art to folklore, from material culture to the written word; and
- Developing critical thinking, writing, and interpretive skills that help students understand their role within a complex, ever-changing society.