skip to content

Bulletin Archive

This archived information is dated to the 2011-12 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. One additional course in comparative race and ethnicity is also required. 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 also 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

3. Literature, Culture, and the Arts—Majors are required to take a minimum of three courses in literature, culture, and the arts, broadly understood. Specific requirements are: at least one course focusing on the period before the Civil War, normally AMSTUD 150, American Literature and Culture to 1855 (same as ENGLISH 123), plus two additional courses, including at least one course outside of literature that emphasizes art, drama, film, music, translation studies, or culture from a different disciplinary or interpretive perspective.

Choices include, but are not limited to:

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:

5. Concentration and Capstone Seminar—Students must design a thematic concentration of at least five 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:


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. More information about American Studies honors is available from the program office.

© Stanford University - Office of the Registrar. Archive of the Stanford Bulletin 2011-12. Terms of Use | Copyright Complaints