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Program in American Studies


Anne A. Cheng

Executive Committee

M. Christine Boyer, Architecture

Margot Canaday, History

Anne A. Cheng, English, African American Studies

Rachael Z. DeLue, Art and Archaeology

Mitchell Duneier, Sociology

Yaacob Dweck, History

Denis Feeney, Classics, ex officio

Paul Frymer, Politics

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

William A. Gleason, English

Carol J. Greenhouse, Anthropology

Hendrik A. Hartog, History

Brian E. Herrera, Lewis Center for the Arts, Theater

Alison E. Isenberg, History

Stanley N. Katz, Woodrow Wilson School

Regina Kunzel, History, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Beth Lew-Williams, History

Rosina A. Lozano, History

Noriko Manabe, Music

Naomi Murakawa, African American Studies

Kinohi Nishikawa, English, African American Studies

Sarah Rivett, English

Carolyn M. Rouse, Anthropology

Martha A. Sandweiss, History

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

Paul E. Starr, Sociology, Woodrow Wilson School

Dara Z. Strolovitch, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Emily A. Thompson, History

Marta Tienda, Woodrow Wilson School, Sociology

Judith L. Weisenfeld, Religion

R. Sean Wilentz, History

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

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

Program of Study

In addition to 101 (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 101 America Then and Now   Spring EC

This course introduces a selection of signature ideas and debates that made the nation what it is today and what it is becoming. Objects of study range across multiple media, including texts, images, works of art, music, performance, and film, and draw from the diverse fields of literature, history, political science, art history, economics, law, cultural studies, and the history of science. The course attends to how knowledge about America has and continues to be produced, disseminated, and consumed, emphasizing the cognitive processes associated with the invention and delineation of America. A. Cheng, D. Strolovitch, G. Frank

AMS 311 Education and Inequality   Spring SA

In Education and Inequality, students examine the relationship between inequality and public schooling in the United States. Students explore the educational practices and organizational structures through which inequality is produced and reproduced inside schools and how social class, race, ethnicity, gender, and other social differences shape educational outcomes. Additionally, we consider students' different experiences in schools and the ways in which individuals and groups respond to inequality. With a few exceptions, the focus is on K-12 public education with emphasis on urban schools in low-income communities. K. Nolan

AMS 312 Kids and the City   Fall SA

Growing up in an urban context presents distinct opportunities and poses unique risks. From the first Guilded Age to today, this course examines the experience of children and youth on the economic margins. We cast our net wide to include parks, playgrounds, neighborhoods, kinship, summer camp, as well as overcrowding, disease, poverty and segregation. We weigh the relative influence of individuals, institutions, government policies and popular movements. Scholarly work plus fiction, film, audio, and primary documents will guide our exploration of the most powerful forces--past and present--that have shaped the lives of urban youth. A. Mann

AMS 314 Staging Identity: Strategies for Surviving the American Stage (also LAO 314/THR 324)   Spring LA

This course maps some benefits and perils of theater made for, by, or about people of color in the United States. We will investigate the difficult-to-theorize and contested space between politics and artistic craft. We will read both play scripts and critical essays, using each to illuminate and complicate the other. Some of the pairings purposefully cross categories of identity, genre or historic periods. We aim to shake loose some of these texts from identity-based or genre-specific readings and glean from them strategies for making theater and surviving. J. Cortinas

AMS 320 U.S. Women Writers (see GSS 319)

AMS 327 Theatre and Society (see THR 309)

AMS 330 Ethnographic Playwriting (see THR 303)

AMS 333 American Stages (see THR 236)

AMS 334 The CIA in Fact and Fiction   Fall HA

This course undertakes a close study of the factual history of the CIA and the depiction of the agency in novels, films, and television. Staff

AMS 340 Shades of Passing (see AAS 340)

AMS 343 Dramaturgy Workshop: Hoodwinked (see THR 313)

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

AMS 359 Topics in American Literature (see ENG 356)

AMS 360 Afro-Asian Masculinities (also ENG 387/AAS 360)   Fall SA

This course undertakes a comparative, cross-cultural analysis of African American and Asian American social formations. In doing so, it aims to highlight when and how seemingly distinct racial and ethnic experiences have come together on matters of labor, citizenship, international politics, and especially gender and sexual ideology. It attends to cross-cultural dialogue as well: for example, in the martial arts (Bruce Lee) and hip hop (Wu-Tang Clan). The course offers a unique opportunity to bring ethnic studies, black studies, and gender studies into dynamic conversation. K. Nishikawa

AMS 361 Special Topics in Dance History, Criticism, and Aesthetics (see DAN 321)

AMS 362 "Yellow Peril" -- Documenting and Understanding Xenophobia   Spring SA

Fears of "yellow peril" (and "Islamophobia") run deep in the present and past of U.S. political and commercial culture. SARS fears, charges of Chinese "pirating" and "hacking," the profiling of Arab or Muslim "looking" peoples, and Asians "taking over" U.S. higher education all illustrate contemporary forms of Asian "peril." Americans remain particularly vulnerable to its ideological and affective power. Seminar students will learn historical research skills and collaboratively document historical and contemporary case studies. We'll explore what can and must be done to counter these fallacies and practices. J. Tchen

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 366 Queer Boyhoods (see GSS 316)

AMS 381 History of American Popular Entertainments (also GSS 379/THR 383/LAO 381)   Spring HA

This course investigates the history of popular entertainments in the United States from the colonial era to the present. Moving briskly among some of the myriad sites, sounds and spectacles that have captivated diverse American audiences, this course tracks how entertainment genres, venues, personalities and phenomena have shaped U.S. culture in enduring and significant ways. This course examines how U.S. entertainment--as simultaneously industrial operation and cultural production--has mapped routes of social encounter, mobility and resistance, while also serving as a platform for individual expression and imaginative escape. B. Herrera

AMS 382 Public Policy in the American Racial State (see AAS 380)

AMS 384 Islands In The Sun: Caribbean Literature (see AAS 320)

AMS 387 Education Policy in the United States (see WWS 387)

AMS 403 For Your Viewing Pleasure: Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary American Theatre, Film, and Popular (see GSS 403)

AMS 436 Crime, Gender, and American Culture (see GSS 336)