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This archived information is dated to the 2009-10 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Bachelor of Arts in American Studies

The core requirements illustrate how different disciplines approach the study and interpretation of American life and include three courses in each of two main areas: history and institutions; and literature, art, and culture. The required gateway seminar, AMSTUD 160, Perspectives on American Identity, explores the tensions between commonality and difference from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

Beyond the core requirements of the major, American Studies expects students to define and pursue their own interests in interpreting important dimensions of American life. Accordingly, each student designs a thematic concentration of at least five courses drawn from fields such as history, literature, art, communication, theater, political science, African American studies, feminist studies, economics, anthropology, religious studies, Chicana/o studies, law, sociology, education, Native American studies, music, and film. At least one of the five courses in a student's thematic concentration should be a small group seminar or a colloquium. With program approval, students may conclude the major with a capstone honors research project during their senior year.

Whether defined broadly or narrowly, the thematic focus or concentration should examine its subject from the vantage of multiple disciplines. Examples of concentrations include: race and the law in America; gender in American culture and society; technology in American life and thought; health policy in America; art and culture in 19th-century America; education in America; nature and the environment in American culture; politics and the media; religion in American life; borders and boundaries in American culture; the artist in American society; and civil rights in America.

Completion of the major thus normally requires 13 courses (totaling at least 60 units), all of which must be taken for a letter grade.

The course requirements for the American Studies major are:

  1. History and Institutions—American Studies majors are required to complete three foundation courses in American History and Institutions. Specific requirements are:

    HISTORY 150A. Colonial and Revolutionary America

    HISTORY 150B. 19th-Century America

    The third course may be chosen from one of the following:

    AMSTUD 179. Introduction to American Law

    ECON 116. American Economic History

    HISTORY 150C. The United States in the 20th Century (not given 2009-10)

    HISTORY 154. 19th-Century U.S. Cultural and Intellectual History 1790-1860

    HISTORY 158. The United States since 1945

    HISTORY 161. U.S. Women's History, 1890s-1990s (not given 2009-10)

    HISTORY 166. Introduction to African American History: The Modern African American Freedom Struggle

    POLISCI 2. American National Government and Politics

  2. Literature, Art, and Culture—Majors must take three gateway courses that, together, cover the broad range of the American experience. Specific requirements are:
    1. at least one course focusing on the period before the Civil War, normally AMSTUD 150, American Literature and Culture to 1855
    2. two additional courses, including at least one from Art or Drama. Choices include but are not limited to:

      AMSTUD 123G. Mark Twain: A Fresh Look at an Icon and Iconoclast 100 Years After His Death

      AMSTUD 138C. Huckleberry Finn and American Culture (not given 2009-10)

      ARTHIST 132. American Art and Culture, 1528-1860

      ARTHIST 176. Feminism and Contemporary Art

      ARTHIST 178. Ethnicity and Dissent in United States Art and Literature (not given 2009-10)

      ARTHIST 259. The Fifties: Abstract Expressionism to Beat Culture

      DRAMA 110. Identity, Diversity and Aesthetics: The Institute for Diversity in the Arts

      DRAMA 163. Performance and America (not given 2009-10)

      DRAMA 165M. Musical Theater

      ENGLISH 121. Masterpieces of American Literature

      ENGLISH 143. Introduction to African American Literature

      ENGLISH 146C. Hemingway, Hurston, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald

      ENGLISH 172E. Literature of the Americas

  3. Comparative Race and Ethnicity—Majors are required to take one course in Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity (CSRE) that focuses on comparative studies rather than a single racial or ethnic group (5 units). Courses that satisfy this requirement include:

    AMSTUD 114N. Visions of the 1960s

    AMSTUD 214. The American 1960s: Thought, Protest, and Culture

    CASA 88. Theories of Race and Ethnicity (not given 2009-10)

    COMPLIT 146. Asian American Culture and Community

    COMPLIT 241. Comparative Fictions of Ethnicity (not given 2009-10)

    CSRE 196C. Introduction to Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity

    SOC 139/239. American Indians in Contemporary Society

    SOC 148. Racial Identity (not given 2009-10)

    SOC 149. The Urban Underclass

    If a CSRE course is appropriate for a student's thematic focus, the course may be used to satisfy both this requirement and, in part, the unit requirement for the focus.

  4. Gateway Seminar—Majors are required to take AMSTUD 160, Perspectives on American Identity (5 units), which is the Writing in the Major (WIM) course for American Studies.

Thematic Concentration and Capstone Seminar—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 cultures, history, and institutions. With the help of faculty advisers, students are required to design their own thematic concentrations, preferably by the end of registration period, Autumn quarter of the junior year. Sample thematic concentrations and courses that allow a student to explore them are available in the American Studies Office in Building 460.

Students may choose courses for their thematic concentration from the following list.

AFRICAAM 105. Introduction to African and African American Studies

AFRICAAM 152. W. E. B. Du Bois as Writer and Philosopher

ANTHRO 16. Native Americans in the 21st Century: Exploring Sovereignty, Identity and Narratives of Native Peoples

ANTHRO 82/282. Medical Anthropology

ARTHIST 143A. American Architecture

ARTHIST 160A. Twentieth Century African American Art

COMM 1A/211. Media Technologies, People, and Society

COMM 1B. Media, Culture, and Society

COMM 116. Journalism Law

COMM 117. Digital Journalism

COMM 120. Digital Media in Society

COMM 125. Perspectives on American Journalism

COMM 160. The Press and the Political Process

COMM 162. Analysis of Political Campaigns

COMM 244. Democracy, Press, and Public Opinion

COMPLIT 41Q. Ethnicity and Literature

COMPLIT 142. The Literature of the Americas

COMPLIT 148. Introduction to Asian American Cultures (not given 2009-10)

DRAMA 110. Identity, Diversity, and Aesthetics: The Institute for Diversity in the Arts

DRAMA 180Q. Noam Chomsky: The Drama of Resistance

ECON 153. Economics of the Internet

ECON 155. Environmental Economics and Policy

ECON 157. Imperfect Competition

ECON 158. Antitrust and Regulation

EDUC 112X/212X. Urban Education

EDUC 115Q. Identities, Race, and Culture in Urban Schools (not given 2009-10)

EDUC 165/265. History of Higher Education in the U. S.

EDUC 177/277. Education of Immigrant Students: Psychological Perspectives

EDUC 201. History of Education in the United States

EDUC 216X. Education, Race, and Inequality in African American History, 1880-1990

EDUC 220B. Introduction to the Politics of Education

EDUC 220C. Society and Education

ENGLISH 123B. The Literature of Abolition

ENGLISH 139B. American Women Writers, 1850-1920

ENGLISH 142G. 20th Century American Fiction

ENGLISH 228. The Rise of the American Novel, 1790-1820

ENGLISH 260. Frederick Douglass

ETHICSOC 257. Moral Foundations of Capitalism

FEMST 101. Introduction to Feminist Studies

FEMST 188N. Imagining Women: Writers in Print and in Person

FILMSTUD 101. Masculinity and Violence in American Cinema

HISTORY 54N. African-American Women's Lives

HISTORY 64C/164C. African-American History, 1865-1965

HISTORY 150C. The United States in the Twentieth Century (not given 2009-10)

HISTORY 154A. Religion and American Society

HISTORY 163. A History of North American Wests (not given 2009-10)

HISTORY 165. Mexican American History Through Film

HISTORY 251. Creating the American Republic

HISTORY 252. Decision-Making in International Crises--The A-Bomb, the Korean War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis

HISTORY 254. Popular Culture and American Nature

HISTORY 255D. Racial Identity in American Imagination

HISTORY 256. U.S.-China Relations: From the Opium War to Tiananmen

HISTORY 258. The History of Sexuality in the United States

HISTORY 259A/B. Poverty and Homelessness

HISTORY 260. California's Minority-Majority Cities

HISTORY 261. Race, Gender, and Class in Jim Crow America (not given 2009-10)

HISTORY 265. Writing Asian American History

HISTORY 268E. American Foreign Policy and International History, 1941-2009

HPST 158. The Social History of Mental Illness

HUMBIO 120. Health Care in America: The Organizations and Institutions That Shape the Health Care System

HUMBIO 122S. Social Class, Race, Ethnicity, Health

HUMBIO 170. Justice, Policy and Science

HUMBIO 171. The Death Penalty: Human Biology, Law, and Policy (not given 2009-10)

HUMBIO 172A. Children, Youth, and the Law

LINGUIST 65/265. African American Vernacular English

LINGUIST 150. Language in Society

LINGUIST 156. Language and Gender

MUSIC 8A. Rock, Sex, and Rebellion (not given 2009-10)

MUSIC 145. Studies in Modern Music

MUSIC 146. Music and Urban Film

MUSIC 147. The Soul Tradition in African American Music

MUSIC 18A. Jazz History: Ragtime to Bebop, 1900-1940

MUSIC 18B. Jazz History: Bebop to Present, 1940-Present

POLISCI 120B. Parties, Voting, the Media, and Elections (not given 2009-10)

POLISCI 120C. American Political Institutions: Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Courts

POLISCI 123. Politics and Public Policy (Same as PUBLPOL 101)

POLISCI 124R. Judicial Politics and Constitutional Law: The Federal System

POLISCI 124S. Judicial Politics and Constitutional Law: Civil Liberties

POLISCI 125V. Minority Representation and the Voting Rights Act (not given 2009-10)

POLISCI 133. Ethics and Politics in Public Service

POLISCI 137R. Civil Rights at Home and Abroad (not given 2009-10)

POLISCI 236S. Theories of Civil Society, Philanthropy, and the Nonprofit Sector

PUBLPOL 194. Technology Policy

RELIGST 60. Nation, Diaspora, and the Gods of African America

RELIGST 105. Race, Faith and Migration

SOC 46N. Race and Ethnic Identities: Imagined Communities

SOC 118. Social Movements and Collective Action

SOC 119. Understanding Large-Scale Societal Change: The Case of the 1960s

SOC 138. American Indians in Comparative Historical Perspective (not given 2009-10)

SOC 139. American Indians in Contemporary Society

SOC 142. Sociology of Gender

SOC 147A. Comparative Ethnic Conflict

SOC 148. Racial Identity (not given 2009-10)

SOC 149. The Urban Underclass

SOC 155. The Changing American Family

SOC 166. Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and Chicanos in American Society

STS 101. Science, Technology, and Contemporary Society

STS 110. Ethics and Public Policy

At least one of these courses must be a capstone seminar or other group discussion course in the thematic concentration that requires a research paper. The American Studies Program office has a list of courses that satisfy the seminar requirement, but students are encouraged to propose others that fit better with their concentration area. An independent study course with a faculty member culminating in a research paper or an honors project may also fulfill this requirement, with the Director's approval.


To graduate with honors, American Studies majors must complete a senior thesis and have an overall grade point average of 3.5 in the major, or demonstrated academic competence. Students must apply to enter the honors program no later than the end of registration period in Autumn Quarter of their senior year, and must enroll in 10-15 units of AMSTUD 250, Senior Research, during the senior year. These units are in addition to the units required for the major. The application to enter the program must contain a one-page statement of the topic of the senior thesis, and must be signed by at least one faculty member who agrees to be the student's honors adviser. (Students may have two honors advisers.) The thesis must be submitted for evaluation and possible revision to the adviser no later than four weeks before graduation.

Students are encouraged to choose an honors topic and adviser during the junior year. To assist students in this task, American Studies offers a pre-honors seminar in which students learn research skills, develop honors topics, and complete honors proposals. Students also may enroll in the American Studies Honors College during September before the senior year. American Studies also provides students the opportunity to work as paid research assistants for faculty members during the summer between their junior and senior year, which includes participation in a research seminar. More information about American Studies honors is available from the program office.

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