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This archived information is dated to the 2010-11 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, culture, and the arts; and one course in comparative race and ethnicity. 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. Not all courses are offered each year; students should consult ExploreCourses for scheduling information for the current academic year.

The course requirements for the American Studies major are:

  1. Gateway Seminar—American Studies 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.
  2. History and Institutions—Majors are required to complete three courses in American History and Institutions. Specific requirements are:
    • AMSTUD 150A. (same as HISTORY 150A) Colonial and Revolutionary America †
    • AMSTUD 150B. (same as HISTORY 150B) 19th Century America †
    • The third course may be chosen from one of the following
    • AMSTUD 1B. (same as COMM 1B) Media, Culture, and Society †
    • AMSTUD 2. (same as POLISCI 2) American National Government and Politics †
    • AMSTUD 137. (same as COMM 137) When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation †
    • AMSTUD 139. (same as SOC 139) American Indians in Contemporary Society
    • AMSTUD 150C. (same as HISTORY 150C) The United States in the 20th Century †
    • AMSTUD 156H. Women and Medicine in US History: Women as Patients, Healers and Doctors †
    • AMSTUD 161. (same as HISTORY 161) Women in 20th Century America †
    • AMSTUD 164C. (same as HISTORY 164C) From Freedom to Freedom Now: African-American History, 1865-1965 †
    • AMSTUD 165. (same as EDUC 165) History of Higher Education in the U.S. †
    • AMSTUD 166. (same as HISTORY 166) Introduction to African-American History †
    • AMSTUD 179. (same as POLISCI 122) Introduction to American Law †
    • AMSTUD 201. (same as EDUC 201) History of Education in the U.S. †
    • AMSTUD 216X. (same as EDUC 216X) Education, Race, and Inequality in African American History, 1880-1990
    • AMSTUD 251. (same as HISTORY 251) Topics in Constitutional History
    • AMSTUD 251C. (same as HISTORY 251C) The American Enlightenment †
    • AMSTUD 258. (same as HISTORY 258) Topics in the History of Sexuality: Sexual Violence in America
    • ECON 116. American Economic History (not given 2010-11)
    • HISTORY 154. 19th Century U.S. Cultural and Intellectual History, 1790-1860 (not given 2010-11)
    • SOC 155. The Changing American Family †
  3. Literature, Culture, and the Arts—Majors are required to take three courses in American literature, culture, and the arts. Specific requirements are: at least one course focusing on the period before the Civil War, normally AMSTUD 150, (same as ENGLISH 123) American Literature and Culture to 1855, and two additional courses, including at least one from Art, Film Studies, Music, or Drama. Choices include but are not limited to:
    • AMSTUD 35N. (same as MUSIC 35N) A Union of Diversities: Charles Ives and American Musical Tradition †
    • AMSTUD 120. (same as COMM 120) Digital Media in Society †
    • AMSTUD 121. (same as ENGLISH 121) Masterpieces of American Literature †
    • AMSTUD 121X. (same as EDUC 121X) Hip Hop, Youth Identities, and the Politics of Language †
    • AMSTUD 123D. (same as ENGLISH 123D) American Literature, 1855 to WWII
    • AMSTUD 123G. (same as ENGLISH 123G) Mark Twain: A Fresh Look at an Icon and Iconoclast (not given 2010-11)
    • AMSTUD 138C. (same as ENGLISH 138C) Huckleberry Finn and American Culture (not given 2010-11)
    • AMSTUD 140. Stand Up Comedy and the "Great American Joke" since 1945 †
    • AMSTUD 142. (same as COMPLIT 142) Literature of the Americas †
    • AMSTUD 143. (same as ENGLISH 143) Introduction to African-American Literature †
    • AMSTUD 146. (same as COMPLIT 146) Asian American Culture and Community †
    • AMSTUD 152A. (same as ENGLISH 152A) American Culture and the Cold War †
    • AMSTUD 152G. (same as ENGLISH 152G) Global Harlem Renaissance †
    • AMSTUD 167. (same as FILMST 167) Hollywood Musicals †
    • AMSTUD 183C. (same as ENGLISH 183C) Feminism and American Literature †
    • AMSTUD 186. (same as ENGLISH 186) Tales of Three Cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles †
    • AMSTUD 240. (same as ARTHIST 240) Sister Arts: Image and Text in America †
    • AMSTUD 257. (same as ENGLISH 257) Journalism and Imaginative Writing in America
    • AMSTUD 260G. (same as ENGLISH 260G) Century's End: Race, Gender and Ethnicity at the Turn of the Century †
    • AMSTUD 261A. (same as ENGLISH 261A) Geography, Time, and Trauma in Asian American Literature
    • AMSTUD 261F. (same as ENGLISH 261F) Gender and Sexuality in Asian American Literature †
    • AMSTUD 262C. (same as ENGLISH 262C) African American Literature and the Retreat of Jim Crow †
    • AMSTUD 262D. (same as ENGLISH 262D) African American Poetics †
    • ARTHIST 132. American Art and Culture, 1528-1860 (not given 2010-11)
    • ARTHIST 176. Feminism and Contemporary Art (not given 2010-11)
    • ARTHIST 178. Ethnicity and Dissent in United States Art and Literature (not given 2010-11)
    • ARTHIST 259. The Fifties: Abstract Expressionism to Beat Culture (not given 2010-11)
    • CSRE 179. Asian American Experiences and Documentary Practice
    • DRAMA 163. Performance and America (not given 2010-11)
    • DRAMA 165M. Musical Theater (not given 2010-11)
    • ENGLISH 152D. Du Bois and American Culture (not given 2010-11)
  4. Comparative Race and Ethnicity—Majors are required to take one course that focuses on the comparative study of race and ethnicity rather than a single racial or ethnic group, generally from the offerings listed by Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CSRE). Courses that satisfy this requirement include:
    • AMSTUD 114N. Visions of the 1960s
    • AMSTUD 121X. (same as EDUC 121X) Hip Hop, Youth Identities, and the Politics of Language
    • AMSTUD 161E. (same as ENGLISH 261E) Mixed Race Literature in the U.S. and South Africa
    • AMSTUD 169. (same as DRAMA 169A) Cultural Traffic: Race, Performance and Globalization
    • AMSTUD 183. Border Crossings and American Identities
    • AMSTUD 214. The American 1960s: Thought, Protest and Culture
    • CSRE 196C. Introduction to Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity
    • CSRE 199A. Race/Sex/Gender in Cultural Representations
    • CSRE 226. Race and Racism in American Politics
    • SOC 149. The Urban Underclass
  5. Concentration and Capstone Seminar—Students must design a thematic concentration of at least 5 courses, with the help of faculty advisers. The courses, taken together, must give the student in-depth knowledge and understanding of a coherent topic in American cultures, history, and institutions. Thematic concentrations should be approved by the end of the registration period of the Autumn Quarter of the junior year, if at all possible. Sample thematic concentrations and courses that allow a student to explore them are available in the American Studies Office in Building 460.

    At least one of the courses in the concentration must be designated as the capstone seminar and must require a substantial research paper on a topic related to the thematic concentration. This paper must be filed in the program office prior to degree conferral. The program office has a list of courses that satisfy the capstone requirement, but students are encouraged to propose others that may fit better with their concentrations. An honors project, or an independent study course with a faculty member culminating in a research paper, may also fulfill this requirement with the Director's approval.

    Students may choose courses for their thematic concentrations from the following list:

    • AMSTUD 101. American Fiction into Film: How Hollywood Scripts and Projects Black and White Relations Over the Decades
    • COMM 1A. Media Technologies, People, and Society
    • COMM 125. Perspectives on American Journalism
    • COMM 131. Media Ethics and Responsibility
    • COMM 162. Analysis of Presidential Campaigns
    • COMPLIT 41Q. Ethnicity and Literature
    • COMPLIT 134. The Poetry of History in the Americas
    • COMPLIT 149. The Laboring of Diaspora and Border Literary Cultures
    • COMPLIT 242. The Global South -- Faulkner, Garcia Marquez, Morrison, and Cisneros
    • CSRE 116. Language, Culture, and Education in Native North America
    • CSRE 132. Friends, Enemies, and Lovers: Interracial Encounters in American Culture
    • CSRE 133. Women and Race in the American West, 1849-1950
    • CSRE 161. Asian American Immigration and Health
    • CSRE 166. New Citizenship: Grassroots Movements for Social Justice in the U.S.
    • CSRE 196C. Introduction to Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity
    • CSRE 200. Latina/o Literature
    • CSRE 201. From Racial Justice to Multiculturalism: Movement-based Arts Organizing in the Post Civil Rights Era
    • CSRE 203A. The Changing Face of America: Civil Rights and Education Strategies for the 21st Century
    • DRAMA 110. Identity, Diversity, and Aesthetics: The Institute for Diversity in the Arts
    • DRAMA 180Q. Noam Chomsky: The Drama of Resistance
    • EDUC 112X. Urban Education
    • EDUC 177. Education of Immigrant Students: Psychological Perspectives
    • EDUC 220B. Introduction to the Politics of Education
    • EDUC 220C. Education and Society
    • ENGLISH 143A. American Indian Mythology, Legend and Lore
    • ENGLISH 187J. Lady Sings the Blues: Blues, Literature, and Black Feminism
    • HISTORY 130A. The Rise of Scientific Medicine
    • HISTORY 166B. Immigration in 20th-Century America: Ethnicity, Race, Nation
    • HISTORY 250A. History of California Indians
    • HISTORY 255B. Introduction to African and African American Studies
    • HPS 158. The Social History of Mental Illness
    • HUMBIO 120. Health Care in America: The Organizations and Institutions that Shape our Health Care System
    • HUMBIO 122S. Social Class, Race, Ethnicity, Health
    • HUMBIO 170. Justice, Policy and Science
    • LINGUIST 65. African American Vernacular English
    • LINGUIST 150. Language in Society
    • LINGUIST 156. Language and Gender
    • MUSIC 8A. Rock, Sex and Rebellion
    • MUSIC 18A. Jazz History I: Ragtime to Bebop, 1900-1945
    • MUSIC 18B. Jazz History II: Bebop to the Present, 1945-
    • MUSIC 146. Music and Urban Film
    • MUSIC 147. The Soul Tradition in African American Music
    • NATIVEAM 120. Native American Writers, 1880-1920
    • NATIVEAM 123. American Indians an the Cinema
    • POLISCI 120B. Campaigns, Voting, Media and Elections
    • POLISCI 120C. American Political Institutions: Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Courts
    • POLISCI 123. Politics and Public Policy
    • POLISCI 124R. Judicial Politics and Constitutional Law: The Federal System
    • POLISCI 124S. Judicial Politics and Constitutional Law: Civil Liberties
    • POLISCI 132S. Theories of Civil Society, Philanthropy, and the Nonprofit Sector
    • POLISCI 220R. The Presidency
    • POLISCI 221. Democratic Theory and Democratic Citizenship
    • POLISCI 222R. Culture and Diversity
    • POLISCI 222S. Topics in Constitutional History
    • POLISCI 223. Race in American Politics
    • POLISCI 224T. Legislature, Court and Public Policy
    • POLISCI 225L. Positive Political Theory and the Law
    • POLISCI 226T. The Politics of Education
    • POLISCI 227R. Polarized Politics and Special Interest Groups
    • POLISCI 227P. Analyzing Contemporary Politics
    • PUBLPOL 125. Law and Public Policy
    • PUBLPOL 135. Regional Politics and Decision Making in Silicon Valley
    • PUBLPOL 154. Politics and Policy in California
    • PUBLPOL 194. Technology Policy
    • SOC 142. Sociology of Gender
    • STS 101. Science, Technology, and Contemporary Society
    • STS 110. Ethics and Public Policy


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 (AMSTUD 240A) 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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