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This archived information is dated to the 2008-09 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

American Studies is an interdisciplinary undergraduate major that seeks to convey a broad understanding of American culture and society. Building on a foundation of courses in history and institutions, literature and the arts, and race and ethnicity, students bring a range of disciplines to bear on their efforts to analyze and interpret America's past and present, forging fresh and creative syntheses along the way.

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

    HISTORY 154. 19th-Century U.S. Cultural and Intellectual History 1790-1860 (not given 2008-09)

    HISTORY 158. The United States since 1945 (not given 2008-09)

    HISTORY 161. U.S. Women's History, 1890s-1990s (not given 2008-09)

    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 138C. Huckleberry Finn and American Culture (not given 2008-09)

      ARTHIST 132. American Art and Culture, 1528-1860 (not given 2008-09)

      ARTHIST 133. American Art and Culture in the Gilded Age

      ARTHIST 155. American Art Since 1945

      ARTHIST 178. Ethnicity and Dissent in United States Art and Literature (not given 2008-09)

      ARTHIST 234A. Harlem Renaissance

      DRAMA 163. Performance and America (not given 2008-09)

      DRAMA 219. Contemporary African American Drama: August Wilson, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Beyond

      ENGLISH 121. Masterpieces of American Literature

      ENGLISH 143. Introduction to African American Literature

      ENGLISH 172E. Literature of the Americas

      ENGLISH 186A. American Hauntings

  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 183. Border Crossings and American Identity

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

    CASA 88. Theories of Race and Ethnicity

    COMPLIT 148. Introduction to Asian American Cultures

    COMPLIT 241. Comparative Fictions of Ethnicity (not given 2008-09)

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

    SOC 138/238. American Indians in Comparative Historical Perspective

    SOC 148. Racial Identity

    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 240.

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. DuBois as Writer and Philosopher

ANTHRO 82/282. Medical Anthropology

ANTHRO 179. Cultures of Disease: Cancer

ANTHRO 180. Science, Technology, and Gender

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 131. Media Ethics and Responsibilities

COMM 136. Democracy and the Communication of Consent

COMM 148. Hip-Hop and Don't Stop: Introduction to Modern Speech Communities

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

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 102. Examining Social Structures, Power, and Educational Access

EDUC 112X/212X. Urban Education

EDUC 115Q. Identities, Race, and Culture in Urban Schools

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

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

EDUC 201A. History of African American Education

EDUC 261X. Justice at Home and Abroad: Civil Rights in the 21st Century

ENGLISH 42B/142B. The Films of Woody Allen

ENGLISH 42E/142E. The Films of the Coen Brothers

FEMST 101. Introduction to Feminist Studies

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

HISTORY 150C. The United States in the Twentieth Century

HISTORY 154A. Religion and American Society

HISTORY 163. A History of North American Wests

HISTORY 254. Popular Culture and American Nature

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

HISTORY 260. California's Minority-Majority Cities

HISTORY 261. Race, Gender, and Class in Jim Crow America

HISTORY 265. Writing Asian American History

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

HSP 156. History of Women and Medicine in the U.S.

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

HUMBIO 120A. American Health Policy

HUMBIO 171. The Death Penalty: Human Biology, Law, and Policy

HUMBIO 172A. Children, Youth, and the Law

LINGUIST 65/265. African American Vernacular English

LINGUIST 156. Language and Gender

MUSIC 8A. Rock, Sex, and Rebellion

MUSIC 17Q. Perspectives in North American Taiko

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

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

POLISCI 137R. Civil Rights at Home and Abroad

POLISCI 221. Tolerance and Democracy

POLISCI 223S. The Imperial Temptation: U. S. Foreign Policy in a Unipolar World

POLISCI 227R. Polarized Politics and Special Interest Groups

PUBLPOL 194. Technology Policy

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

SOC 139. American Indians in Contemporary Society

SOC 142. Sociology of Gender

SOC 148. Racial Identity

SOC 149. The Urban Underclass

SOC 155. The Changing American Family

STS 101. Science, Technology, and Contemporary Society

STS 110. Ethics and Public Policy

STS 155. Society in the Age of Robots

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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