First course in American Studies

The American Studies major is designed to allow a student great flexibility in designing a course of study, a combination of required courses in the major and courses selected by the student from across the curriculum. Students interested in exploring American Studies are encouraged to enroll in one of our introductory courses: The City: New York or Global Valley. Each course explores a specific geographic location from a range of disciplinary perspectives and through a variety of primary materials such as historical documents, literature, film, art, and architecture. 

American Studies 111, Global Valley is an excellent course for student's arriving at Amherst.  It provides an introduction both to the range of liberal arts methodologies and to this place -- the Connecticut River Valley.

It is often said that one can’t understand the global except through a study of the local; and that one can’t understand the local except in the context of the global. This course takes those ideas seriously. Drawing on a wide range of primary materials and visits to the sites of many of the topics we study, this course introduces you to American Studies through an exploration of the Connecticut River Valley that stresses both the fascination of detailed local history and the economic, political, social, and cultural networks that tie this place to the world. Topics include interactions between Native peoples and English settlers; changing uses of land and resources; witchcraft trials; the Revolution and Shays rebellion; religious revivalism; abolitionist and other reform movements; the invention of “scenic New England,” including Thomas Cole’s famous painting of the Oxbow; immigration, industrialization and deindustrialization, especially in the city of Holyoke; educational institutions and innovations; the reach of the “military industrial complex” into local educational institutions; feminist and gay activism; present social equity issues; and of course, Emily Dickinson's poetry. 

For more information, visit the course website (open to guest viewers)

The American Studies Major

The American Studies major encourages students to design an individualized course of study within a major structured to provide them with the methodological, theoretical, and research skills to conduct independent interdisciplinary research.

Courses in the major expose students to a range of primary materials and the analytical tools to engage them critically, as well as key terms and theories crucial to the field of American Studies. This coursework includes exposure to historical analysis, ethnography, archival research, textual analysis, community-based learning, as well as intellectual fields such as cultural studies, critical race theory, cultural geography and empire studies. Students develop their unique concentration of study from courses both within the department and across the college curriculum. A student’s area of concentration allows in-depth analysis of a topic within a comparative framework that promotes innovation of thought and creativity in design.

During the senior year, majors, under the guidance of a departmental faculty advisor, complete a semester-long or year-long project that acts as the culmination of their work in the major.

Our majors go on to graduate work in history, English, art history, museum studies and other fields and are working in law, academe, non-profit, business, and government.

American Studies majors are required to take ten courses plus complete a senior project. The American Studies major includes two specific course requirements and eight other courses on American culture and society. These elective courses can be chosen, in close consultation with an advisor, from courses offered in many other departments in addition to American Studies.  The American Studies major offers enormous flexibility for interdisciplinary exploration.