American Studies Curriculum
(For students matriculating Fall 2012 or after. Students matriculating prior to Fall 2012 will follow the major requirements in effect at matriculation. All bulletins are available online).
Core courses: 201, 202, 303, 401, 402
200- or 300-Level American Studies Topics: one course.
Structures and Institutions: two courses, from two different departments.
Representation: one course.
History: two courses: HIST 117 or 118, and one additional U.S. History course(or comparative history course approved by the student's AMST advisor) at or above the 200-level.
Literature: 2 courses in American Literature (or comparative literature courses approved by the student's AMST advisor); one of the courses must be at or above the 200-level.
Seven courses: 201, 202, 303, 401; one 200- OR 300-level topics course; one American literature course; one U.S. History course.
Suggested Four Year Program
First Year: 201 (second semester); 101 is often a good option for the thematic; American History 117, 118; perhaps, 202 (second semester).
Second Year: 202 and courses which fulfill the "structures and institutions" or "representation" requirements of the major.
Third Year: Field Work and the thematic. If the student is studying abroad, normally 202 needs to be completed before leaving, and careful planning with the advisor is recommended for the coursework to be taken abroad.
Fourth Year: 401; 402; field work if not taken junior year, and any remaining courses to fulfill the major.
Contact the Department Chairperson. For information, see the Director of Teacher Education, or visit the Education Department web site. Because students in Teacher Education must devote the fall semester of their senior year to the certificate, they need to take 401 in fall semester junior year and 402 spring semester senior year. Careful planning with advisor when they declare the major is advisable.
Independent study, independent research or student/faculty collaborative research is appropriate when a student is seeking to explore a topic in an interdisciplinary way. Students interested in independent study should see the American Studies Chairperson. Recent independent studies have been done on Sixties America, Video Production, Advertising, Religion in America, Urban Problems in America, Native American Cultures, Feminism in American Studies, Sport in American Society, Gay in America, Mass Media in American Society. Normally the student will have taken a course with the faculty member who would guide the independent study, and will be a junior or senior major.
Honors in the Major
To be eligible for consideration for honors, an American Studies major must be recommended by her or his AMST 401 instructor, must have a minimum 3.5 grade point average (rounded) in the major by the end of the fall semester of their senior year, and must have no breaches of the college's academic community standards. A student pursuing honors must complete a research manuscript in 402 that goes beyond the merit of an "A" paper. An "honors" thesis should be at least 50 pages in length and should demonstrate skilled writing and extensive research; a nuanced ability to make connections between the specific issue studied and larger social and cultural issues; extensive use of primary sources; an awareness of key theory and methods; an engagement with current critical questions within American Studies; and, finally, an ability to work on all three levels essential to an American studies project - history, representation, and structures and institutions. An Honors Committee, made up of three faculty, including the seminar instructor(s) from 402 and preferably from core American Studies faculty, shall assess the project(s). Part of this assessment shall include a meeting and discussion with the Honors Faculty Committee.
Internships become appropriate when they are relevant to the thematic concentration of the student. Students have interned with Student Services, Carlisle Youth Services, the borough of Carlisle, the county public defenders office, CBS Evening News, the Smithsonian Folk Life Division, the Carlisle School District, the American Cancer Society, the Evening Sentinel, WITF Public Television, Domestic Violence Services, Communications and Development, MTV, Carlisle Police Department.
Opportunities for Off-Campus Study
American Studies majors often study in Dickinson's East Anglia program in Norwich, England because East Anglia has a strong American Studies department. Other programs of interest to American Studies majors include the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, and Dickinson's other programs abroad. American Studies majors have also participated in the Dickinson programs in Australia, Cameroon, India, Italy, and Mexico. Other majors have spent semesters abroad through non-Dickinson programs in England, Ireland, and South Africa.
These off-campus programs are usually part of the Junior year and should be planned well in advance of the semester they are to be engaged in.
101 Topics in U.S. Cultural Diversity
These courses explore cultural diversity in the United States through an interdisciplinary framework combining historical, literary, and cultural analysis. Students are introduced to the methods and questions central to the interdisciplinary field of American Studies, and special attention is paid to issues of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexualities in exploring American histories and cultures. Topics may include ; Class and Culture; Body Politics; Comparative Ethnicities; The New Negro Movement; Race, Class, and the American Dream; Urban Landscapes.
This course fulfills the DIV II social sciences distribution requirement and US Diversity graduation requirement.
200 Aspects of American Culture
Selected topics in American studies at the introductory level. The subject matter will vary from year to year dependent upon the interests of faculty and the needs and interests of students. Recent topics have included mass media; health, illness, and culture; Latino/a U.S.A.; racial politics of popular music; Caribbean-American literary and visual cultures; Black feminisms.
This course fulfills the DIV II social sciences distribution requirement. This course is cross-listed as LALC 123 when topic is relevant.
201 Introduction to American Studies
Introduces students to basic theories and methods used for the interdisciplinary analysis of U.S. cultural materials and to the multiplicity of texts used for cultural analysis (mass media, music, film, fiction and memoir, sports, advertising, and popular rituals and practices). Particular attention is paid to the interplay between systems of representation and social, political, and economic institutions, and to the production, dissemination, and reception of cultural materials. Students will explore the shaping power of culture as well as the possibilities of human agency.
This course fulfills the DIV II social sciences distribution requirement.
202 Workshop in Cultural Analysis
Intensive workshop focused on theoretical approaches to the interpretation of social and cultural materials. The course provides an early exposure to theories and methods that will be returned to in greater depth in the senior year. Intended to develop independent skills in analysis of primary texts and documents.
This course fulfills the DIV II social sciences distribution requirement and WR graduation requirement.
301 Topics in American Studies
Selected topics in American studies at the intermediate level. Topics offered will vary from year to year, reflecting the interests of faculty and students as well as evolving concerns of the field.
Prerequisite: 201 or permission of the instructor. This course is cross-listed as LALC 301 when topic is relevant. NOTE: When cross-listed with Film Studies, prerequisite is one course in either American Studies or Film Studies. This course fulfills the DIV II social sciences distribution requirement.
302 Ethnography in American Studies
Approaches to the responsible collection and analysis of social and cultural materials to be found in the immediate community and environment. Intensive training in participant observation, interviewing, and historical analysis. The ethics of field work will be stressed.
Prerequisite: Completion of, or concurrent enrollment in 202, or permission of the instructor. This course fulfills the DIV II social sciences distribution requirement.
303 Topics in Cultural Theory/Workshops in Cultural Theory
This seminar course develops majors' knowledge of and facility with various theoretical approaches and research methods informing the interdiscipline of American Studies. Topics will vary based on instructors' expertise, and will draw upon key sources of American Studies thought and scholarly practice such as literature, sociology, cultural studies, philosophy, women's and gender studies, cultural anthrophology, and history. The course will further develop students' research and writing skills, bridging the 200-level core courses (201 and 202) and the senior seminar sequence (401 and 402). Majors should take this course prior to taking 401, though taking both courses at the same time is possible; but majors must take AMST 303 prior to their taking AMST 402.
Prerequisite: 201, 202 or permission of the instructor.
401 Research and Methods in American Studies
An integrative seminar focusing on the theory and methods of cultural analysis and interdisciplinary study. Students examine the origins, history, and current state of American studies, discuss relevant questions, and, in research projects, apply techniques of interdisciplinary study to a subject related to thematic concentration.
Prerequisite: 303, Senior American studies major, or permission of the instructor. This course fulfills the DIV II social sciences distribution requirement.
402 Writing in American Studies
Students research and write a substantial research project, normally drawing on their work in 401.
Prerequisite: 303, 401. This course fulfills the DIV II social sciences distribution requirement.