Major Requirements

The American studies major seeks to understand the American experience through a multidisciplinary program of study.

Goals for the Major

  • expose students to exemplary models of interdisciplinary learning and critical inquiry in the arts, humanities, and social sciences;
  • provide a broad understanding of American culture and society and their complex inter-relationships;
  • delineate the influence and impact of America beyond its borders and the transnational, racial, ethnic, and religious interactions that, in turn, define its own identity;
  • introduce students to the many innovations within disciplines that attend to changes in historical understanding, literary, and artistic sensibilities, and social life;
  • enable students to make connections among disciplines in sharp and critical ways; and
  • offer students the opportunity to become critical thinkers, cogent writers, and skillful researchers on a broad range of topics in American life through their course work, individual study, and honors work.


The requirements for the major are as follows: Nine units of course work are required for the major, at least six of which should be taken at Wellesley College. These courses include AMST 101, which should be completed before the end of the junior year; at least two courses in historical studies; one course in literature; one course in the arts; and one course from any one of the following three areas: social and behavioral analysis; or epistemology and cognition; or religion, ethics, and moral philosophy. Students are also expected to take at least two 300-level courses, one of which should be AMST 300-399, taken in the junior or senior year. AMST 350, AMST 360, and AMST 370 do not count toward this requirement.

Overlaid on this structure, students should choose a focus that lends depth and coherence to the major.  Chosen in consultation with the major advisor, a focus consists of three or more courses pertaining to a topic, for example: 1) race, class, and gender  2) comparative ethnic studies 3) culture and society 4) Asian American Studies.  Students may also construct their own focus. 

Students are encouraged to explore the diversity of American culture and the many ways to interpret it. Most courses at the College that are primarily American in content may be applied to the American Studies major. American Studies majors are encouraged to take as part of, or in addition to, their major courses, surveys of American history, literature, and art (for example, HIST 203/HIST 204, ENG 262/ENG 266, ARTH 231/ARTH 232) and a course on the U.S. Constitution and political thought (for example, POL1 247). In addition, students are urged to take one or more courses outside the major that explore the theory and methods of knowledge creation and production (for example, ECON 103/SOC 190, PHIL 345, POL 199, QR 180).