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American Studies

American Studies

The concept of “American” is fraught with problems. It implies a shared national experience and a common mythology despite diverse cultural experiences. Yet understanding “America” requires an examination of conflict and competition among racial, religious, and ethnic groups; social and economic interests; geographical regions; generations; traditional and nontraditional political movements; and artistic activities (such as “high” against “pop” culture). Study of such a multifaceted concept can benefit from the coordinated approaches of many disciplines; this concentration draws upon the social sciences, literature, and the arts to gain access to both broad perspectives and immediate experiences. Because America has been a pioneer in the development of mass communication, American culture provides students an excellent site to engage in a critique of communications, media, and the arts in their various roles as disseminators of information, conduits for new communities, and instruments of political power and control.

During Moderation, students are encouraged to choose courses that will complement each other, offering a comprehensive view of a topic or thematic focus within the broad field of American culture and experience. The focus may be on a time period, ethnic or national subgroup experience, geographical region, political, social, or religious issue, etc. (It may be designated as part of the title of an individual’s concentration, e.g., Asian American Experience in the 20th Century, 19th-Century America, etc.)


Students choose at least two courses whose focus is on America from each of three categories: Literature, politics and social science, and the arts for a total of 18 to 24 credits. At least two of the courses must be at the 300-level. Appropriate courses are listed below. Others may be accepted with approval of the Moderation Committee.


Literature 231 American Drama: Moderns and Contemporaries
Literature 232 The Harlem Renaissance
Literature 233 Modern American Fiction: Disturbing the Peace
Literature 237 Home on the Range: Western Films and Fiction
Literature 238 American Fiction: 1950–2000
Literature 239 Contemporary American Poetry: Constructs of the Self
Literature 240 Literary Realism and Naturalism
Literature 244 Whitman and Dickinson
Literature 270 CP Latin American Women Writing Resistance
Literature 306 Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville
Literature 311 American Modernism: Making it New
Literature 315 Faulkner Seminar: The Sound and the Fury
Literature 317 Bellow, Updike, and Roth

Politics and Social Science

Anthropology 214 CP Native American Religions
Anthropology 215 CP Native Peoples of North America
Politics 207m Comparative Politics Focus: Contemporary U.S.
Politics 226 American Idol: Experiments in American Political Thought
Politics 318 Critical Legal Studies: The First Amendment
Social Science 109 Oppression and Liberation in the United States

The Arts

Art History 212 Theories of Photography
Art History 213 Analyzing Television
Art History 216 CP African American Art and Thought
Music 217/317 Music Since World War I
Music 218/318 CP Jazz: An American Encounter

Recent Senior Theses

“Misty Mountains, Shadowed Peaks: An Inquiry into the Shaping of History and Identity in Southern Appalachia”
“Native American and First Nations Education: Past, Present, and Future”
“Women, Work, and Protest in the Northeastern Cotton Mills”
“Over an Ocean and Into a Textbook: Asian Immigrants in Early 1900s History Books”
“Is Democracy Broken? An Exploration of Elites and America”
“The Dilemma of American Business: A Study of the Decline in Steel in the Beaver County Area”
“I Keep Singing a Song: Elvis Presley and the Legacy of His Music”
“‘I Chose Liberty; That Was My Weekend’: Colonial Williamsburg and the Practice of Living History”


Asma Abbas, Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez, Joan DelPlato, Hal Holladay, Jamie Hutchinson, John Myers, Bernard Rodgers, Mileta Roe, Laurence Wallach

Faculty Contact: Jamie Hutchinson