The American Studies major is well-suited for intellectually curious and independent students whose interests cross disciplines and departments. The American Studies major is designed to help students develop an integrated and intensive understanding of the social, historical, material, and aesthetic aspects of American cultures. This highly flexible major allows students to identify and pursue their interests while working collaboratively with a cohort of students and faculty. Field trips and on-campus events help to build a strong intellectual community that undergirds each student's experience.
The program lays a strong foundation in two core courses that students take in their sophomore year and culminates in a guided year-long thesis courses, in between students have significant freedom to pursue questions and topics of their choice by selecting from a wide range of electives. Because of the sophomore foundations courses, students interested in American Studies must apply in the spring of their first year, unlike other majors in the College.
The American Studies major consists of 14 courses:
Sophomore year, two core courses:
AMST203: Origins and Identities
AMST204: Memory, Power, and Culture
These foundational courses foster a common language and set of methodological approaches to interdisciplinary work. Students engage critically with a variety of texts that expose cultural dispositions towards race, religion, gender, class, and diversity throughout various periods of American history.
Junior year, two core courses:
An Approaches course in which students deepen their knowledge of methods in the field by exploring a central theme; examples include AMST333: Crisis: American Disasters in Film and Fiction and AMST272: Facing Georgetown’s History
A Topics course in which students dig deeply in a particular question, genre, period, or cultural group; examples include AMST382: Advertising and Social Change, ENGL208: US Latinx Literature and Culture, and MUSC117: Rock History
These core courses, taught by American Studies faculty, build on the knowledge and methods that students learn in the foundational courses and help students prepare for the rigor of the senior thesis.
Senior year, two core courses:
AMST304: Senior Thesis Seminar
AMST305: Senior Thesis II
During this year-long sequence, students develop expertise that complements the broad and interdisciplinary approaches of the major. They hone their skills in project and time management; design a research project; collect and analyze primary and secondary sources; and build confidence as they articulate and present their conclusions. Students may write an original essay of approximately 60-80 pages, or they may present their research in an alternative form, such as a short documentary film, website, or a digital story. This process of producing a substantive piece of scholarship helps students prepare to move from college to the professional world.
At any time during the three-year major:
2 American history courses
History courses help students develop an understanding of how social, economic, and political forces have shaped ideas, conflicts, policies, and everyday life in the U.S. over time. We recommend HIST I80 (Fall) and HIST 181 (Spring), but students may choose from other pre-approved alternatives that fall within the ranges HIST 180-199 or HIST 280-299. We encourage students to choose one history course that covers pre-1865 and one that covers post-1865 America. We recommend that students fulfill the history requirement during their first or second year of undergraduate study.
6 electives chosen from an extensive list provided each semester, with courses from art history, American history, literature and media studies, sociology, and other fields
Electives enable students to explore Americans cultures in both deep and wide ways. Students are encouraged to select electives intentionally, with an eye to developing significant knowledge of a central theme, cultural form, or period. This can help students prepare for the senior thesis as well as for future careers.
Many American Studies majors spend a semester abroad during their junior year. This provides opportunities for cross-cultural comparative analysis, and students gain insight into how the United States influences and is seen by other countries. Our students have enrolled in programs in Ireland, South Africa, Germany, and Italy, among other places.
Georgetown’s American Studies graduates are sought after in a number of professional fields because they write well, think critically, are adept at making connections among disparate ideas, have a strong sense of their interests, and are well-prepared to acquire and use new knowledge. Students pursue careers in business, law, medicine, government, performing arts, museum studies, and education. Having majored in the oldest interdisciplinary program in the College, American Studies alumni continue to be a highly active and engaged network of professionals.
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Click here to access the American Studies Spring 2018 course packet.