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Program in American Studies


Hendrik A. Hartog

Acting Director

William A. Gleason (fall/spring)

Executive Committee

Wallace D. Best, Religion, African American Studies

M. Christine Boyer, Architecture

Margot Canaday, History

Anne A. Cheng, English, African American Studies

Rachael Z. DeLue, Art and Archaeology

Jill S. Dolan, English, Lewis Center for the Arts

Paul Frymer, Politics

Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Religion, African American Studies

William A. Gleason, English

Carol J. Greenhouse, Anthropology

Hendrik A. Hartog, History

Alison E. Isenberg, History

Stanley N. Katz, Woodrow Wilson School

Noriko Manabe, Music

Lee C. Mitchell, English

Imani Perry, African American Studies

Sarah Rivett, English

Daniel T. Rodgers, History

Gideon A. Rosen, Philosophy, ex officio

Martha A. Sandweiss, History

Kim Lane Scheppele, Woodrow Wilson School, University Center for Human Values, Sociology

Paul E. Starr, Sociology, Woodrow Wilson School

Emily A. Thompson, History

Marta Tienda, Woodrow Wilson School, Sociology

Alexandra T. Vazquez, English, African American Studies

Judith L. Weisenfeld, Religion

R. Sean Wilentz, History

Stacy E. Wolf, Lewis Center for the Arts, Theater

Sits with Committee

Leslie E. Gerwin, Program in Law and Public Affairs

Karen Y. Jackson-Weaver, Office of the Dean of the Graduate School

Clayton K. Marsh, Office of the Dean of the College

The Program in American Studies is an interdepartmental plan of study. The aim is to give students an understanding of American society--its culture, its institutions, its intellectual traditions, and the relationships among its diverse people--by exploring and debating issues raised in the separate disciplines.

The cooperating departments from which the program draws faculty and other resources include anthropology, architecture, art and archaeology, economics, English, history, music, philosophy, politics, psychology, religion, sociology, and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Students from all departments are welcome to apply for admission.

Admission to the Program

The program accepts approximately 45 students each year. Criteria for admission are a strong academic record and particular interest in the multidisciplinary work of the program. Before applying for admission, students must take American Studies 201, preferably during the sophomore year, and achieve a satisfactory standing in the course.

Program of Study

In addition to 201, students must complete two 300- or 400-level American studies courses. The work of these courses involves cooperative study of a major topic in American history or culture and its relation to other aspects of American life. Usually, the course operates as a seminar, with emphasis on independent research and writing. Lectures and discussions led by outside specialists, as well as films or field trips, frequently supplement the work.

Students must also complete three American studies electives, which are courses in the American field offered by departments throughout the University and approved by the program director (pass/D/fail not acceptable).

Students are expected to complete a normal departmental course of study with such emphasis on the American field as that department permits. The senior thesis must be on a topic related to American culture or history.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill all requirements of the program will receive a certificate of proficiency in American studies upon graduation.


AMS 201 American Places: An Introduction to American Studies (also LAO 201)   Fall HA

An introduction to the key themes of interdisciplinary work on North America, from the 16th century to the modern era. Readings and related material will focus on the study of particular American places. Topics may include native-European contact, the American Revolution, slavery, urbanization, the rise of mass culture, and the computer revolution. One 90-minute lecture, one 90-minute preceptorial. M. Tienda

AMS 303 The Making of Modern Baseball   Fall SA

Modern baseball is a complex game, an international business, and a social and cultural touchstone. Combining a close study of the game¿s past with a thorough analysis of its present, the course examines baseball¿s evolution into the sport and industry it has become today. Topics include race and ethnicity (the breaking of the color line), labor and economics (the advent of free agency), globalization (the international game), geography (expansion and franchise relocation), architecture and public policy (stadium design and funding), as well as community and culture (journalism, statistical analysis). One three-hour seminar. W. Gleason, S. Bradley

AMS 307 The Art of Sustainability (also ENV 317)   Fall LA

This course explores the central role of the arts in the creation of sustainable communities and asks students both to analyze art works and to create art projects of their own (no prior art experience required). We will examine three hotspots--urban nature writing, landscape painting/photography, and public art actions that involve the audience as participants. How do these artists envision sustainable places? How can artists enact communities in which we live in nature more equitably as well as with more ecological sense? And how can students use art to encourage sustainability on the campus where they live and work? J. Price

AMS 321 Diversity in Black America (see AAS 323)

AMS 327 Race, Masculinity and the Rule of Law (see AAS 327)

AMS 340 Shades of Passing (see AAS 340)

AMS 350 Civil Society and Public Policy (see WWS 325)

AMS 356 Migration, Urban Space, and African American Culture (see AAS 356)

AMS 359 From Negro to Black: African Americans and the 1970s (see AAS 309)

AMS 372 Postblack - Contemporary African American Art (see AAS 372)

AMS 375 Defining Moments in American Culture (also ART 375)   Spring LA

A focused look at three key turning points in American history: 1800,1850, and 1900. The course will study selected expressions in art, politics, literature, and science or technology to see how they embody national aspirations or anxieties of each period. Two continuing themes will receive special attention: the consciousness of self and of nature in American culture. J. Wilmerding

AMS 377 Natural Histories in America: New World to Now (also ART 377)   Fall EC

This seminar examines how the concepts and methods of natural history have regularly manifested themselves in American art and visual culture from the age of "discovery" to now. It considers works of art as well as scientific imagery and treats each as a strategy of knowing, with a shared investment in the observational and the taxonomic and deep roots in social and political concerns. Topics include early images of the New World; race science; natural history museums and the diorama; visualizations of the unseeable pre-historic past; the impact of evolutionary theory on 19th-century visual culture; and contemporary art and the post-natural. R. DeLue