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Undergraduate Major in American Studies


Courses listed below are a guideline.  Many other courses may fulfill these requirements as well.  Check ExploreCourses for the most up-to-date list of course offerings; not all courses are offered every year!  Please email Amy at with any questions or concerns.

1. Gateway Seminar

  • AMSTUD 160, Perspectives on American Identity (aut, spr)
Students begin with this seminar exploring how memory, personal experience and history inform each other; how the debates over what constitutes "Americanness" have changed over time; and how these debates have been shaped by race, ethnicity, gender and class. Students probe the issues of "difference" and "commonality", and how ideas of self, group and nation intersect and interact in the past and in the present. Perspectives on American Identity is the Writing in the Major (WIM) course for American Studies.

2. History and Institutions

All American Studies majors are required to complete the two quarter sequence in American history (10 units)
  • AMSTUD 150A (same as HISTORY 150A) Colonial and Revolutionary America (Aut)
  • AMSTUD 150B (same as HISTORY 150B) 19th Century America (Win)

plus a third course (3-5 units) chosen courses including (but not limited to):

3. Literature, Culture, and the Arts

Majors are required to take a minimum of three courses in literature, culture, and the arts, broadly understood, including at least one course focusing on the period before the Civil War, normally 
  • AMSTUD 150/ENGLISH 123, American Literature and Culture to 1855 (SPR)

plus two additional courses, including at least one course outside of literature that emphasizes art, drama, film, music, translation studies, or culture from a different disciplinary or interpretive perspective.  Choices include (but are not limited to): 

4. Comparative Race and Ethnicity

All majors are required to take one course in Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity that focuses on comparative studies rather than a single racial or ethnic group, generally from offerings listed by the Program in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (3-5 units).  Choices include (but are not limited to):

5. Thematic Concentration and Capstone Seminar

All students must design a thematic concentration of at least 5 courses. The courses, taken together, must give the student in-depth knowledge and understanding of a coherent topic in American culture, history, and institutions. A list of sample thematic concentrations (below) and of elective courses (see courses tab) that allow a student to explore them is also available in the American Studies Office (Bldg. 460, 216). At least one of these courses must be an upper-division seminar (the Capstone), requiring a significant paper that is filed with the department upon completion. Suggestions and help may be obtained from the program director or one of the coordinators.
Students may choose to spend a quarter or two in the Stanford-in-Washington program taking courses that complement their thematic concentrations. Seminars taken under the aegis of the Stanford-in-Washington Program often fulfill the above seminar requirement.
We also encourage students to explore Bing Overseas Studies. Courses that view American culture and institutions from a transnational perspective often provide comparative frameworks for students' thematic concentrations.


First, apply for the Major through AXESS.  (Please do not choose "honors" at the time of application.  Students wishing to write honors theses will add that designation at the end of the junior year.) 
After meeting with the Director or one of the Program Coordinators (see "advising" tab for office hours), who provide assistance in course planning and approve the study plan, the application process is completed when you submit your approved tentative study plan to the  American Studies office (Building 460, Room 219).

You may download the amstud_major_study_plan.docx --or pick up a hard copy at the office.  Check on AXESS under AMSTUD to find courses. You should also browse offerings in other departments to identify courses appropriate to your thematic concentration (see suggested elective courses for the thematic concentration by choosing the "courses" link from the left-hand menu).


These examples are meant to be suggestive.

There are innumerable other possibilities.

You are invited to design a unique thematic concentration that fits YOUR interests.

This list is designed simply to spark your imagination.

  • Race and Racism in American Culture & Society
  • Constructions of Female Identity in America
  • Health Policy in America
  • The Artist in American Society
  • Nature & the Environment in American Culture
  • Technology and Culture in America
  • Urban Politics and Education in the U.S.
  • Politics an the Media in America
  • The African Diaspora in America
  • The Politics of Poverty in America
  • The History and Culture of Early America
  • Art and Culture in the 19th C
  • America and the Global Economy
  • Technology in American Life and Thought
  • Dissent and Democracy
  • Race and the Law in America
  • Borders and Boundaries in American Culture
  • Religion in American Life
  • Native American Cultures
  • Education in America
  • American Moderns
  • Inequality and Democracy in America
  • The Politics of War and Peace in the U.S.
  • Debating Democracy in America
  • Hollywood and American Culture
  • Ethics and the Professions in America
  • Global Perspectives on America’s Role in the World
  • Race and the Law in America
  • Gender and American Popular Culture
  • Inequality and Social Policy in America
  • The Arts of the Harlem Renaissance
  • Women’s Reproduction in American Culture and Society
  • The West in American Art and Culture
  • The Legacies of the Cold War in the U.S.