American Studies is an innovative field of study that looks at the American past and present through an interdisciplinary lens. Students in the major draw upon concepts and methods developed in history, literature, sociology, philosophy, political science, anthropology, art history, and music in their analyses of various American social, cultural and political phenomena. American Studies majors are critical thinkers who are able to analyze a variety of texts (such as the visual arts, novels, films, sports, advertising, and popular music) and to investigate how these texts reflect or challenge dominant conceptions of identity and power. The American Studies curriculum has a strong transnational focus, emphasizing that “America” does not stop at the borders of the United States.

At Dickinson, the Department of American Studies offers both a major and a minor. Students take core courses in American Studies and draw other coursework from across the curriculum. Each American Studies student has a unique program given coherence through the core American Studies courses and through careful planning and advising. Required courses within and outside the department address four key areas of study: History, Representation, Structures & Institutions, and Literature.

Courses appropriate for prospective majors

AMST 200 Aspects of American Culture
Fall 2021: 
Latinx Studies
Racial Politics of American Popular Music

AMST 201 Introduction to American Studies

AMST 202 Workshop in Cultural Analysis

First-Year students: In the first year, students interested in exploring American Studies should consider taking AMST 201, which pairs well with FYS and other first-year courses. 

Students may also take AMST 101, HIST 117 or 118, an ENGL 101 course in American literature, SOCI 110, AMST 202, or a 200-level American Studies topics course in the second semester of their first year.

Anyone interested in the American Studies major is welcome to contact the department chairperson.

For course descriptions and requirements for the major, please refer to the Academic Bulletin: American Studies.

Courses that fulfill distribution requirements

Social Sciences (Division II):
AMST 200 - Fall 2021: 

Latinx Studies
Racial Politics of American Popular Music

AMST 201 - Introduction to American Studies
AMST 202 - Workshop in Cultural Analysis


AMST Major Requirement - Representation - Fall 2021:

AMST 200:  Racial Politics of American Popular Music
AMST 303:  The America that Race Built


AMST Major Requirement - Structures & Institutions - Fall 2021:
AMST 200:  Latinx Studies
AMST 303:  The America that Race Built

AMST Major Requirement - History - Fall 2021:
AMST 303:  The America that Race Built

Writing in the Discipline - Fall 2021:
AMST 202:  Workshop in Cultural Analysis

Suggested curricular flow through the major

First Year/Sophomore Year
AMST 201 Introduction to American Studies
AMST 202 Workshop in Cultural Analysis
One course in American History
One 200-level course in American Studies
One course in American Literature
One course in Structures & Institutions

Junior Year
AMST 303 Topics in Cultural Theory/Workshops in Cultural Theory
One course in Representation
One course in American Literature at the 300-level
One course in Structures & Institutions
One course in History at or above the 200-level

Senior Year
AMST 401 Research and Methods in American Studies (Fall)
AMST 402 Writing in American Studies (Spring)
Any courses remaining to fill out the major


To be eligible for consideration for honors, an American Studies major must be recommended by their AMST 401 instructor, must have a minimum 3.5 grade point average (rounded) in the major by the end of the fall semester of their senior year, and must have no breaches of the college's academic community standards. A student pursuing honors must complete a research manuscript in 402 that goes beyond the merit of an "A" paper. An "honors" thesis should be at least 50 pages in length and should demonstrate skilled writing and extensive research; a nuanced ability to make connections between the specific issue studied and larger social and cultural issues; extensive use of primary sources; an awareness of key theory and methods; an engagement with current critical questions within American Studies; and, finally, an ability to work on all three levels essential to an American studies project - history, representation, and structures and institutions. An Honors Committee, made up of three core American Studies faculty, shall assess the project(s).


Internships become appropriate when they are relevant to the thematic concentration of the student. Students have interned with Student Services, Carlisle Youth Services, the borough of Carlisle, the county public defenders office, CBS Evening News, the Smithsonian Folk Life Division, the Carlisle School District, the American Cancer Society, the Evening Sentinel, WITF Public Television, Domestic Violence Services, Communications and Development, MTV, Carlisle Police Department.

Opportunities for off-campus study

American Studies majors often study in Dickinson's East Anglia program in Norwich, England because East Anglia has a strong American Studies department. Other programs of interest to American Studies majors include the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, and Dickinson's other programs abroad. American Studies majors have also participated in the Dickinson programs in Australia, Cameroon, India, Italy, and Mexico. Other majors have spent semesters abroad through non-Dickinson programs in England, Ireland, and South Africa.

These off-campus programs are usually part of the Junior year and should be planned well in advance of the semester they are to be engaged in.

Additional Remarks

Annual events: American Studies hosts the Bud Shaw Memorial lecture, which brings a distinguished scholar in the field to discuss their current research with our majors and the College community. Every spring, senior American Studies majors present their thesis projects-in-process at our American Studies Senior Research Symposium.

Related activities: American Studies offers lectures and films that are coordinated with the core courses, but which are open to the entire community, often in cooperation with the participating departments. 

Majors Committee: Interested American Studies majors serve on the student advisory committee.

Careers: Recent graduates have found jobs in the non-profit and social services areas, business, publishing, journalism, teaching, government, counseling, and law.  Some have gone on to graduate education in a variety of fields including American studies, business, education, fine arts, historic preservation, museum studies, history, law, political science, urban planning, religion, journalism, and medicine. 

Further Information: Information on the major and minor as well as on the particular courses being offered each semester are available from the American Studies Department Chairperson.