Major Requirements

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

Learning Objectives for the American Studies Major

Students majoring in American Studies will:

  • Gain competence in the theories and methods of American Studies interdisciplinary work and explore viable models of interdisciplinary learning and critical inquiry in the arts, humanities, and social sciences
  • Develop knowledge of the histories and cultures of the United States, understanding the complex interrelationships of culture and society
  • Learn to evaluate the influence and impact of America beyond its borders and the transnational, racial, ethnic, and religious interactions that, in turn, define its own identity
  • Gain knowledge of the many innovations within disciplines that attend to changes in historical understanding, literary and artistic sensibilities, and social life
  • Learn how to conduct in-depth, independent research in American Studies, making connections among disciplines in sharp and critical ways
  • Attain skills as 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

Requirements

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 (in addition to AMST 101); 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.

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

Students are encouraged to explore the diversity of American culture and the many ways to interpret it. A list of courses that count toward the major is also included as a separate section in the catalog. Most courses at the College that are primarily American in content may be applied to the American Studies major: if a course isn’t listed and seems eligible for credit, students should consult with the Director. 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 American 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).