American Studies Major


The 36-unit undergraduate major requires 12 units of American Studies core courses and 24 elective units in American Studies and related fields. Another way to think of these 36 units is to imagine your normal progress through the program. In this sense, it is best to think of the program as consisting of a "beginning," a "middle," and an "end".

The "beginning" consists of two required core courses, AMST 201 (Introduction to American Studies) and AMST 301 (The American Character) which, taken together, introduce the student to the major approaches we adopt in the study of American cultures.

  • AMST 201 emphasizes historical development and periodization, and it introduces the student to the concept of culture and to interdisciplinarity

  • AMST 301 emphasizes cultural pluralism and the formation and maintenance of personal, group, and national identities in the modern world.

The "middle" portion of the student's progress through the major consists of nine three-unit courses. One of these nine is a required core course, AMST 350 (Theory & Method of American Studies), which examines the history of the American Studies movement, the culture concept , and the major methodologies used in the discipline. Since this course is designed both to help students put together what they have learned so far and to deepen their understanding for coursework to come, they are encouraged to schedule taking AMST 350 midway through the "middle" portion of their progress through the major.

The remaining eight courses are electives, which the major selects in consultation with a faculty adviser. All faculty perform this advisement function. Students may take all eight electives in American Studies courses or they may include up to four courses from other departments.

Students who choose to include courses from other departments must follow one of two plans in selecting those courses, a "theme approach" or a "disciplines approach." Whichever plan is followed, all non- American Studies coursework must be substantive rather than skill or how-to courses and must have an American focus or a cross-cultural focus involving America.

If they follow the theme approach, students determine a concentration or theme, such as gender, popular culture, regionalism, law and society, or urban studies. All courses taken outside American Studies must be upper-division and must fit this concentration or theme.

If they follow the disciplines approach, students may take upper-division courses from one or two other disciplines, such as Afro-Ethnic studies, anthropology, art, Chicano studies, communications, criminal justice, English, geography, history, political science, psychology, radio-tv-film, or sociology. They must take at least two courses in any one discipline.

The "end" consists of our a required core course, AMST 401T (Proseminar in American Studies) which serves as a capstone to the student's work as a major.

AMST 401T is a variable topic course. Recent (and likely future) topics have included Mark Twain's America, Nature and Culture, Sexual Orientations, American Culture through Social Science, Reading the City, and Adolescent America. Students in AMST 401T conduct individual research projects on some aspect of the common topic, drawing on subject matter understandings and methodological approaches which they studied during the "middle" portion of their progression through the major.