Programs of Study
The American Studies Program offers a major in American studies. The program's objective is to promote interdisciplinary study and understanding of American history and society; American economic and political institutions and the beliefs, values, codes of behavior, expressive arts, myths, and symbols that constitute American culture. The program assumes that employing an interdisciplinary approach in examining the society in which one is likely to live and work is good preparation for graduate training and for professional careers in a variety of fields, including journalism, communications, law, public service, business, planning, social work, teaching, publishing, historic preservation, and museum work. Courses should be distributed among at least four academic departments or major programs and examine the following key themes:
- Power and Responsibility
What are the forms of power in American society? What role do institutions play in wielding power? How have they evolved over time? Who has power, and how is it manifested in symbolic and practical ways? How much do one's answers to these questions depend on one's position within American society?
What does it mean to talk about someone or something as being American? Are there widely shared beliefs and ideals among those who think of themselves as Americans? Who defines what it means to be an American? What are the uses and abuses of this sort of discourse? How has the issue of identity related to race, class, ethnicity, gender, generation, and region? How have definitions of collective and individual identity changed over time?
- The Natural and Human-Made Environment
How have Americans shaped their geographical habitat and been shaped by it? What kind of material culture have they created? How does it reveal attitudes and beliefs about power, responsibility, and identity? How is the impact of science and technology assessed?
- Cultural and Social Expression
What is the impact of mass communications media, popular culture, and the arts and what is their relation to major social, political, and economic institutions and to freedom of expression in America? To what extent is America a social and/or cultural construction?