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Program in American Studies


Hendrik A. Hartog

Executive Committee

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

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

Rosina A. Lozano, History

Noriko Manabe, Music

Lee C. Mitchell, English

Naomi Murakawa, African American Studies

Imani Perry, African American Studies

Sarah Rivett, English

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

Judith L. Weisenfeld, Religion

R. Sean Wilentz, History

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

Sits with Committee

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

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. H. Hartog, S. Rivett, N. Murakawa

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 309 A History of Disability as told by Personal Narratives   Spring SA

This seminar will examine and compare definitive concepts and life experiences of disability derived from the personal narratives of men and women labeled autistic and because of limited speech presumed incompetent. We will explore how the narratives created by those once not heard bring a new voice to our understanding of how we define "ability" and our use of the term "disability." Through class seminars, readings and film screenings, students will explore little heard history of disability through first person narratives. G. Wurzburg

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

AMS 321 Diversity in Black America (see AAS 323)

AMS 327 Theatre and Society (see THR 309)

AMS 330 Ethnographic Playwriting (see THR 303)

AMS 333 American Stages (see THR 236)

AMS 340 Shades of Passing (see AAS 340)

AMS 342 Race, Racism and Politics in Twentieth-Century America (also HIS 442)   HA

In this seminar, we will explore the relationship between race, racism and politics throughout twentieth-century America. Topics will include segregation; immigration and assimilation; the role of racial politics in World War II and the Cold War; the civil rights movement and white massive resistance; Black Power and the white backlash; and contemporary politics up to the election of Barack Obama. K. Kruse

AMS 343 Dramaturgy Workshop: Hoodwinked (see THR 313)

AMS 346 Race, Labor, and the Long Civil Rights Movement (see AAS 345)

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

AMS 351 Liberation Photography /The Engaged Photographer   Fall LA

This is a hybrid course that focuses on a powerful and important facet of modern visual culture--those photographers who embrace the human condition and use the camera as a tool to explore the world; fight poverty, injustice, and exploitation; shape public policy; and advance human rights. This course is not about technologies, cameras, darkroom techniques, or Photoshop. Writing is essential. The course is project-oriented. While studying exemplars of still picture communication, students will create and present a modest photo essay and supply meaning through the right words, intelligent sequencing, and creative captioning. R. Street

AMS 352 What Environmental Arts & Humanities Are Good For (see ENV 347)

AMS 358 Electronic Literature: Lineage, Theory, and Contemporary Practice (also HUM 358)   Fall LA

Electronic Literature: Lineage, Theory, and Contemporary Practice will explore electronic literature, including print antecedents, generative literature, interactive fiction, hypertext literature, social media-based literature, electronic manuscripts and digital visual poetry. Lectures, dialog, discussion, and student presentations on theoretical, critical, and historical aspects of electronic and avant-garde literature will alternate and intertwine with lectures, dialog, and student traversals/projects that investigate the creative practice of writing electronic literature. J. Malloy, C. Wulfman

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

AMS 376 American Images (also ART 376)   Fall LA

This course examines America through the lens of its images. Pictures created by Americans of all stripes in all periods have been integral to the shaping of American history, culture, and identity. By examining a wide range of image types--from the fine arts and photography to the built environment, scientific illustration, film, and digital media--and by considering these images in terms of their historical, political, social, intellectual, and global contexts, "American Images" will offer both a sweeping and a detailed portrait of America through the rich, sometimes strange history of its art and visual culture. R. DeLue

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

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 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)