Major Requirements

Preparatory Subject Matter (24 units)

The American Studies faculty wants you to sample the “connectional” approach to the interdisciplinary study of American experience, so we ask that you take AMS 010: Introduction to American Studies (4 units), and one additional lower division American Studies course (4 units). These are generally courses organized around thematic topics or cultural systems, such as technology, objects, autobiographies, business, and nature. You begin to learn interdisciplinary thinking, ways of understanding the connections between American cultural systems (ideas, art, architecture, music, literature, etc.) and ways of understanding how the university’s intellectual disciplines contribute to your study of American experience.

We must always inquire whether our generalizations apply equally across differences of gender, race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, region, age, religion, or any number of other ways Americans think of their individual and group identities. This perspective is incorporated into every American Studies course, but we also ask that you take coursework introducing you to race, gender and ethnicity as fundamental categories of American experience. Choose one course from the following courses in racial cultural diversity: African-American Studies 010, Asian American Studies 001, Chicana/o Studies 010 or 020, or Native American Studies 010; and another four-unit course from Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies 050, Anthropology 002, or Sociology 002 (4 units x 2 = 8 units).

American Studies relies upon your having a background in American history (4 units). You may choose these units from the basic United States history survey (HIS 017 A or B) or from the survey of the social history of women and the family in the United States (HIS 072 A or B). We should also have some familiarity with the fundamentals of literary criticism as applied to American literature or film (4 units). Courses offered by the English Department or Cinema and Digital Media Studies program can meet this requirement, especially English 030A/B, or Film Studies 001.

Depth Subject Matter (40 Units)

To meet the depth subject matter requirements, American Studies majors take two required core courses, three upper division AMS classes, and five courses that comprise the emphasis. The emphasis plan is discussed in detail below. The first of the core courses — AMS 100: Methods in American Studies — guides students through the design and completion of an interdisciplinary proposal, research plan and paper. The course will be particularly helpful for those electing to write a senior thesis or complete a senior project.

The second core required course, AMS 160, is a seminar open only to majors in their junior and senior years. This seminar provides you an opportunity to explore particular themes and topics in the intimacy of a small-group peer setting. The seminars address selected topics through intensive reading, research, discussion and writing. The topic changes each quarter and you can retake it a second time with a different topic.

The AMS electives are chosen from: 110, 111, 115, the 120 series, the 130 series, the 150 series, or others as approved by the AMS faculty advisor. These courses are organized around important themes in American experience. We ask you to take three courses (12 units). We offer ten to twelve upper division electives a year. With the exception of AMS 100 and 160, most courses are not guaranteed to be offered every year.

AMS Major Worksheet

The Emphasis Plan (20 units)

The Emphasis Plan is where students personalize the American Studies major to their own educational interests and goals. In consultation with the Major Advisor and the Faculty Undergraduate Advisor, you select five upper-division courses organized around a single theme or focus in American culture. You should draw these courses from two or more departments or programs in addition to AMS. In the past, students have created emphases around “Arts in American Culture,” “Women’s Lives,” “Schooling and Society,” “Comparative Ethnic Cultures,” “20th Century American Culture,” “Visual Communication,” “Law and Society,” and many other themes. This list is only suggestive, and you will find your advisor helpful in creating an emphasis that suits your educational and career goals.

Upon approval, this Emphasis Plan will be kept in your advising file. This plan is tentative. It is a good idea to consult with an advisor at least once a year to be sure your plan is up-to-date. Please note that the emphasis plan must be on file before you can be certified for graduation.

Generally you may include up to 8 units of American Studies courses in your emphasis. Exceptions to this are approved on a case-by-case basis by the faculty advisor. Also, you may use up to 4 units of internship (AMS 192) toward your emphasis, in accordance with the College of Letters & Science policy.

As you complete the 5 courses that make up your emphasis, you will be required to write a 1-2 page narrative where you explain how those courses allowed you to gain a specialized interest in American Studies. Please work with the Major Advisor and Faculty Undergraduate Advisor to obtain directions.

Graduation Honors, High Honors, and Highest Honors

Honors at graduation may be achieved by students who meet the standards set forth in the General Catalog. High and Highest Honors awards require the successful completion of a senior thesis project with a grade of “A.”