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Program in American Studies


Hendrik A. Hartog

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, Theater 

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, Woodrow Wilson School

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 (or a program-designated substitute), preferably during the sophomore year, and achieve a satisfactory standing in the course.

Program of Study

In addition to 201 (or the program-designated substitute), 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)   Not offered this year 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. W. Gleason

AMS 306 Frederick Douglass and the Long 19th Century (see AAS 306)

AMS 313 The Law of Democracy   Fall SA

Examines the interaction of law and politics. Topics covered will include the development of the right to vote, the Voting Rights Act, redistricting, the role of political parties, ballot access, election and campaign activities, recounts (including a review of the 2000 Presidential Election recount), and the regulation of money in politics. This course focuses on federal issues, but also will examine the States, including New Jersey. Students will receive theoretical and practical knowledge of the role that government and courts play in the political process and how that interaction affects campaigns, candidates, and officeholders. Staff

AMS 321 Diversity in Black America (see AAS 323)

AMS 325 Urban Education Reform   Fall SA

This seminar focuses on issues involved in improving educational opportunities for children in urban schools. Students will analyze the historical and contemporary writings on issues fundamental to student educational performance, with emphasis on understanding the barriers and pathways to reform. Students will also apply their readings to case studies of selected urban school districts exploring the policy and political dimensions of various reform initiatives. One three-hour seminar. L. Gerwin

AMS 327 Theatre and Society (see THR 309)

AMS 332 Bob Dylan   Spring LA

Bob Dylan is one of the finest musical artists America has produced. Over a career that spans more than half a century, he has composed lyrics that estimable critics put on the same level as the work of Byron or even Shakespeare. His words and melodies have proved how art of the highest intelligence can also win wide commercial appeal. And his performances as well as his songs are deeply rooted in American experience and myth. This seminar will closely examine Dylan's work, and assess the claims made about it, while tracing its many circuitous connections to American history and culture. R. Wilentz

AMS 340 Shades of Passing (see AAS 340)

AMS 350 Civil Society and Public Policy (see WWS 385)

AMS 353 Moby-Dick Unbound (also ENG 355/ENV 353)   Fall LA

Undertakes a close reading of Melville's major tales and Moby-Dick, often acclaimed as the greatest American novel. Why was this story of a tragic sea voyage so neglected in its day, and so celebrated by later generations? To explore its twin lines of action--Ahab's drive to kill a white whale versus Ishmael's quest to know it--we use the methods of history, literature, art, religion, economics, philosophy, and ecology. Of special interest are the ways Melville anticipates recent environmental thought, depicts a globalized culture, and dramatizes the national struggle to reconcile faith and fact, race and justice. One three-hour seminar. W. Howarth

AMS 354 Topics in American Literature (see ENG 357)

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

AMS 357 Making American Theater: The History and Challenges of Creating Theater on Broadway and in New York (also THR 357)   Fall LA

The most vital theater is in direct conversation with the world in which it's created and performed. This class explores the American theater over the course of the last 100 years, surveying how some of its most vital plays, artists and theaters were engaged in ambitious attempts to reclaim or reinvent the American stage, while tackling some of the biggest issues in the American Century. Additionally, the class will explore challenges faced by producers and artists currently working on Broadway and in New York. The class aims to inspire those who might wish to make theater or performance in any context. Staff

AMS 363 Gender, Sexuality, and Contemporary U.S. Theatre and Performance (see GSS 363)

AMS 365 Isn't It Romantic? The Broadway Musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Sondheim (see GSS 365)

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

AMS 386 Race and the City (see AAS 386)