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American Studies Curriculum


13 courses

Core courses: 201, 202, 303, 401, 402

200- or 300-Level American Studies Topics: one course

Structures and Institutions: two courses, from two different departments

Representation: one course

History: two courses: HIST 117 or 118, and one additional U.S. History course (or comparative history course approved by the student's AMST advisor) at or above the 200-level

Literature: 2 courses in American Literature (or comparative literature courses approved by the student's AMST advisor); one of the courses must be at or above the 200-level


Six courses: 201, 202, 303; one topics course at or above the 200-level; one American literature course; one U.S. History course.

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).


We strongly encourage students to participate in internships through the internship notation program.  This allows students to explore career paths and provides opportunities to see how skills learned in American Studies can be applied outside of academia.  Students have interned with The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, MTV, the Smithsonian Folk Life Division, the American Cancer Society, Planned Parenthood, the Carlisle Regional Medical Center, the Carlisle School District, the borough of Carlisle, Cumberland County Public Defender’s Office, Pennsylvania Legal Services, and Domestic Violence Services.  

Opportunities for off-campus study

American Studies majors often study off-campus, and we encourage them to pursue such opportunities. A very popular program is Dickinson’s East Anglia program in Norwich, England, as the University of East Anglia has a strong American Studies department.  Students also study at Oxford University and in programs within Copenhagen, Bologna, Toulouse, as well as New Zealand, India and Brazil.  Other solid opportunities exist in Washington D.C. and New Mexico.

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.  They are a great part of the American Studies major.


101 Topics in U.S. Cultural Diversity
These courses explore cultural diversity in the United States through an interdisciplinary framework combining historical, literary, and cultural analysis. Students are introduced to the methods and questions central to the interdisciplinary field of American Studies, and special attention is paid to issues of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexualities in exploring American histories and cultures. Topics may include: Class and Culture; Body Politics; Comparative Ethnicities; The New Negro Movement; Race, Class, and the American Dream; Urban Landscapes.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Social Sciences, US Diversity

200 Aspects of American Culture
Selected topics in American studies at the introductory level. The subject matter will vary from year to year dependent upon the interests of faculty and the needs and interests of students. Recent topics have included mass media; health, illness, and culture; Latino/a U.S.A.; racial politics of popular music; Caribbean-American literary and visual cultures; Black feminisms.
This course is cross-listed as LALC 123 when topic is relevant.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Social Sciences

201 Introduction to American Studies
Introduces students to basic theories and methods used for the interdisciplinary analysis of United States and hemispheric cultural materials and to the multiplicity of texts used for cultural analysis (mass media, music, film, fiction and memoir, sports, advertising, and popular rituals and practices). Particular attention is paid to the interplay between systems of representation and social, political, and economic institutions, and to the production, dissemination, and reception of cultural materials. Students will explore the shaping power of culture as well as the possibilities of human agency.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Social Sciences

202 Workshop in Cultural Analysis
This intensive writing workshop focuses on theoretical approaches to the interpretation of social and cultural materials. The course provides an early exposure to theories and methods that will be returned to in upper level departmental courses. Intended to develop independent skills in analysis of primary texts and documents.
Prerequisite: Any AMST course or permission of instructor.
Attributes: Social Sciences, Writing in the Discipline

301 Topics in American Studies
Selected topics in American studies at the intermediate level. Topics offered will vary from year to year, reflecting the interests of faculty and students as well as evolving concerns of the field.
Prerequisite: 201 or permission of the instructor. This course is cross-listed as LALC 301 when topic is relevant. NOTE: When cross-listed with Film Studies, prerequisite is one course in either American Studies or Film Studies.

303 Topics in Cultural Theory/Workshops in Cultural Theory
This seminar course develops majors' knowledge of and facility with various theoretical approaches and research methods informing the interdiscipline of American Studies. Topics will vary based on instructors' expertise, and will draw upon key sources of American Studies thought and scholarly practice such as literature, sociology, cultural studies, philosophy, women's and gender studies, cultural anthropology, and history. The course will further develop students' research and writing skills, bridging the 200-level core courses (201 and 202) and the senior seminar sequence (401 and 402). Majors should take this course prior to taking 401, though taking both courses at the same time is possible; but majors must take AMST 303 prior to their taking AMST 402.
Prerequisite: AFST 200, AMST 202, ENGL 220, SOCI 240, SPAN 299, or WGSS 200

401 Research and Methods in American Studies
This integrative seminar focuses on the theory and methods of cultural analysis and interdisciplinary study. Students examine the origins, history, and current state of American studies, discuss relevant questions, and, in research projects, apply techniques of interdisciplinary study to a topic of their choosing.
Prerequisite: 303, Senior American studies major, or permission of the instructor.
Attributes: Social Sciences

402 Writing in American Studies
Students research and write a substantial research project, normally drawing on their work in 401.
Prerequisite: 303, 401.
Attributes: Social Sciences