Program in American Studies



  • Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús

Associate Director

  • Patricia Fernández-Kelly

Executive Committee

  • Allison Carruth, Effron Center Study of America
  • Anne Cheng, English
  • Rachael Z. DeLue, Art and Archaeology
  • Mitchell Duneier, Sociology
  • Yaacob Dweck, History
  • Patricia Fernández-Kelly, Sociology
  • Paul Frymer, Politics
  • William A. Gleason, English
  • Brian E. Herrera, Lewis Center for the Arts
  • Alison E. Isenberg, History
  • Shamus R. Khan, Sociology
  • Beth Lew-Williams, History
  • Christina León, English
  • Rosina A. Lozano, History
  • Anne McClintock, Gender & Sexuality Studies Pgm
  • Paul Nadal, English
  • Kinohi Nishikawa, English
  • Sarah Rivett, English
  • Carolyn M. Rouse, Anthropology
  • Paul E. Starr, Sociology
  • Judith Weisenfeld, Religion
  • Sean Wilentz, History
  • Peter Wirzbicki, History
  • Stacy E. Wolf, Lewis Center for the Arts

Sits with Committee

  • Tessa L. Desmond
For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Program Information

The Program in American Studies, administered by the Effron Center for the Study of America, is an interdisciplinary plan of study that prepares students to make intellectual connections in the world through the experiences and place of America in current and historical times. Encompassing a wide range of fields, areas, and disciplines, and grounded in the histories and experiences of the diverse peoples and cultures that make up the United States of America, the program explores different conceptual framings of America and the role of the United States in global, local, and transnational relationships. By asking a broad range of research questions and engaging with diverse scholarly methods and theories, the program encourages new understandings of issues that profoundly affect contemporary life and scholarship, including questions of migration, diaspora, and borders; indigeneity and colonization; globalization, empire, and war; capital and culture; language, race, and ethnicity; religion; slavery and racialization; gender and sexuality; and ecology and technology.

For more information, please visit the Effron Center website,

Admission to the Program

Students from all departments are welcome to enroll. Students may enroll in the American studies certificate program at any time, including their first year. There are no prerequisites, and courses taken prior to enrollment may count toward the certificate requirements. Students may take the gateway course AMS 101 at any time during their studies, including after enrollment in the certificate program. To enroll in the certificate program, students should complete the online enrollment form. Certificate students should meet with the program coordinator of the Effron Center for the Study of America before the end of their first year of enrollment, to review their plans for fulfilling the certificate requirements.

Program of Study

Students may earn a certificate in American studies by successfully completing the following requirements, consisting of five courses:

  1. AMS 101: America Then and Now
  2. Three courses in American studies, either originating in the program or cross-listed, and preferably representing disciplinary breadth in the social sciences, arts, and humanities. No more than one course taken in fulfillment of the student’s concentration may be counted toward the certificate.
  3. An advanced seminar in American studies, preferably taken in senior year.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill all the requirements of the program will receive a certificate in American studies upon graduation.


AMS 101 America Then and Now Fall CDEC

This course introduces students to the subjects of American Studies through discussion of some of the signature ideas, events, and debates in America's past and present in order to understand America as it exists today. It examines both historical and mythic manifestations of America from local, national, and global perspectives and considers the historical and cognitive processes associated with the delineation of America. The course examines a wide range of material and media from the point of view of multiple fields of study, and it engages the voices of diverse individuals and cultures in telling the story of America then and now. Instructed by: W. Gleason, S. Khan, M. Huerta

AMS 202 The Sixties: Documentary, Youth and the City (See HIS 202)

AMS 211 Introduction to Latino/a/x Studies (See LAO 201)

AMS 214 American Deaf Culture (See LIN 215)

AMS 216 Wounded Beauty (See ENG 216)

AMS 218 Latinx Autobiography (See LAO 218)

AMS 300 Urban Studies Research Seminar (See URB 300)

AMS 301 Critical Intersections in South Asian American Studies (See ASA 336)

AMS 307 Metatheater, Then and Now (See THR 308)

AMS 308 The Politics of American Jewish Power and Powerlessness (See JDS 312)

AMS 309 Music Traditions in North America (See MUS 260)

AMS 310 Black Dance: History, Theory, Practice (See DAN 305)

AMS 312 Race, Gender, and the Urban Environment (also
GSS 462
URB 316
ENV 314
) Spring CDSA

This course considers how environmental racism shapes urban inequality. We will discuss how racial and gender bias have conditioned proposals for the future of cities and the planet. We will also address how people who have experienced racial and gender marginalization have formed relationships with land, water, and non-human life in response to crisis. We will address environmentalist work in geography, critical race studies, city planning, queer and trans theory, and disability studies along with novels, journalism, and film to analyze how ideas of race and gender and questions of urban and planetary futures have informed one another. Instructed by: Staff

AMS 313 Feminist Futures: Contemporary S. F. by Women (See GSS 303)

AMS 316 Translating America (See ENG 219)

AMS 317 Sondheim's Musicals and the Making of America (also
MTD 321
THR 322
ENG 249
) Spring LA

In this course, we'll examine the musicals of Stephen Sondheim from COMPANY (1970) to ROAD SHOW (2009) as a lens onto America. How have Sondheim's musicals conversed with American history and American society since the mid-20th century? How do Sondheim's musicals represent America and Americans, and how have various productions shaped and re-shaped those representations? We'll explore how Sondheim and his collaborators used the mainstream, popular, and commercial form of musical theatre to challenge, critique, deconstruct, and possibly reinforce some of America's most enduring myths. Instructed by: S. Wolf

AMS 318 Topics in Latinx Literature and Culture: Latinx Literary Worlds (See ENG 318)

AMS 320 U.S. Women Writers (See GSS 319)

AMS 321 Diversity in Black America (See AAS 323)

AMS 322 Native American Literature (also
ENG 242
) Fall CDLA

An analysis of the written and oral literary traditions developed by Native Americans. American Indian and First Nation authors will be read in the context of the global phenomenon of indigeneity and settler colonialism, and in dialogue with each other. Through readings, discussions, and guest speakers, we will consider linguistic, historical, and cultural approaches. This course offers an occasion to reflect on, critique, and contest settler colonialism, or the dispossession of land and waters and the attempt to eliminate Indigenous people. Instructed by: S. Rivett

AMS 323 Afro-Diasporic Dialogues: Black Activism in Latin America and the United States (See AAS 322)

AMS 328 Special Topics in Dance History, Criticism, and Aesthetics (See DAN 321)

AMS 330 The Orange Bubble (See SOC 370)

AMS 331 Excavate/Illuminate: Creating Theater from the Raw Material of History (See HUM 321)

AMS 336 Gender Crossings in American Musical Theater (See GSS 337)

AMS 340 American Literature: 1930-Present (See ENG 368)

AMS 341 'Cult' Controversies in America (See REL 271)

AMS 345 Special Topics in Creative Writing (See CWR 345)

AMS 346 Reimagining the American Theatrical Canon (See THR 223)

AMS 348 Topics in 18th-Century Literature (See ENG 338)

AMS 350 In Living Color: Performing the Black '90s (See THR 392)

AMS 351 Black and Indigenous Feminist Survival and Experimentation in the Americas (also
GSS 443
AAS 352
) Spring CDSA

This course is designed to explore how centering Black and Native/Indigenous feminist epistemologies (ways of knowing), theories, methods, themes, cultural production, and decolonial and abolitionist struggle reorient the field of American Studies. If we orient American Studies around and through Black and Native/Indigenous gendered, sexualized, feminist and queer modes of survival and ingenuity; what themes, debates, and questions rise to the surface and become salient? Instructed by: Staff

AMS 353 21st Century Latinx Drama (See THR 353)

AMS 354 Creative Ecologies: American Environmental Narrative and Art, 1980-2020 (also
ART 355
ENV 373
) Fall SA

This seminar explores how writers and artists--alongside scientists and activists--have shaped American environmental thought from 1980 to today. The seminar asks: How do different media convey the causes and potential solutions to environmental challenges, ranging from biodiversity loss and food insecurity to pollution and climate change? What new art forms are needed to envision sustainable and just futures? Course materials include popular science writing, graphic narrative, speculative fiction, animation art, documentary film, and data visualization along with research from anthropology, ecology, history, literary studies, and philosophy. Instructed by: A. Carruth

AMS 357 Conspiracy in America (See ENG 261)

AMS 359 Topics in American Literature (See ENG 356)

AMS 360 History of the American West (See HIS 374)

AMS 363 Gender, Sexuality, and Contemporary U.S. Theatre and Performance (See GSS 363)

AMS 366 Queer Boyhoods (See GSS 316)

AMS 367 American Noir: Crime Fiction and Film (also
ENG 267
) Spring LA

A study of a distinctive new genre that is eminently American, distinctively modernist, and brazenly vulgar. Louche as the subject is, writers were able more directly to engage issues of social inequality (racial, sexual, economic) along with changing notions of gender construction. Such fiction continues today, but its appeal for cinema has been tremendous, and we will focus on the ways adaptation modified popular formulas. Instructed by: L. Mitchell

AMS 369 Women and American Religion (See REL 360)

AMS 370 Asian American History (See HIS 270)

AMS 371 US Intellectual History: Development of American Thought (See HIS 375)

AMS 372 Postblack - Contemporary African American Art (See AAS 372)

AMS 373 Pleasure, Power and Profit: Race and Sexualities in a Global Era (See GSS 345)

AMS 378 Race and Religion in America (See REL 377)

AMS 380 Unrest and Renewal in Urban America (See HIS 388)

AMS 382 Law and Public Policy in African American History (See AAS 380)

AMS 383 Graphic Memoir (See GSS 373)

AMS 384 Literature, Food, and the American Racial Diet (See ENG 395)

AMS 385 Theater and Society Now (See THR 385)

AMS 387 Storytellers - Building Community Through Art (See THR 313)

AMS 388 Cinema in Times of Pandemic: Research Film Studio (See COM 373)

AMS 389 Black Aesthetics: Art, Literature, and Politics in the African Diaspora (See ENG 379)

AMS 391 Muslim America (See REL 393)

AMS 393 Jewish Identity and Performance in the US (See ENG 410)

AMS 396 Reading Islands: Caribbean Waters, the Archipelago, and its Narratives (See ENG 358)

AMS 397 Religion and American Film (See REL 257)

AMS 403 Advanced Seminar in American Studies (also
SOC 403
) Not offered this year SA

This course brings methods and ideas from two fields--American studies and the environmental humanities--to examine the role of the arts in US food movements related to agriculture, culinary experimentation and environmental justice. Course materials will include film, visual and performance art, journalism, political ephemera and culinary artifacts. Course participants will develop both an independent research-based essay and a multimedia collaborative project that build on the seminar's guiding questions and assigned materials. Instructed by: A. Carruth

AMS 404 Advanced Seminar in American Studies (also
AAS 405
) Fall CDLA

This course offers an intensive introduction to the particular tools, methods and interpretations employed in developing original historical research and writing about race and ethnicity in twentieth century popular performance (film, television, theater). Through collaborative, in-depth excavations of several genre-straddling cultural works, course participants will rehearse relevant methods and theories (of cultural history, of race and ethnicity, of popular culture/performance) and will undertake an independent research project elaborating the course's guiding premise and principles of practice. Instructed by: S. Morris

AMS 406 Advanced Seminar in American Studies Fall SA

This interdisciplinary seminar will examine the history and evolution of the Walt Disney Company not only as a multinational media and entertainment conglomerate but also as a powerful cultural force--from the early films and theme parks to the highly successful streaming service. We'll consider the ever-expanding Disney multiverse (which now includes Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, among others) as well as the company's global reach, while paying special attention to its impacts on, and representations of, American history, society, and culture, particularly as they touch on matters of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, and place. Instructed by: W. Gleason

AMS 411 Major Author(s) (See ENG 411)

AMS 412 Princeton and Slavery (See HIS 402)

AMS 413 Writing about Cities (See HIS 451)

AMS 414 Life-Writing: Diaries, Memoirs, Autobiographies and History (See HIS 414)

AMS 415 Race, Labor, and Empire (See HIS 415)

AMS 416 Decentering/Recentering the Western Canon in the Contemporary American Theater (See THR 416)

AMS 420 U.S. Legal History (See HIS 379)

AMS 428 Systemic Racism: Myths and Realities (See SOC 373)

AMS 431 BANNED: The Paradox of Free Speech in Cinema (See COM 431)

AMS 432 Archiving the American West (See HIS 431)

AMS 436 Crime, Gender, and American Culture (See GSS 336)

AMS 440 Musical Theatre and Fan Cultures (See HUM 340)

AMS 441 Reconstructing the Union: Law, Democracy, and Race after the American Civil War (See HIS 441)

AMS 443 Global Novel (See ENG 444)

AMS 448 Corporealities of Politics (See GSS 348)

AMS 457 Empire of the Ark: The Animal Question in Film, Photography and Popular Culture (See ENV 357)

AMS 459 The History of Incarceration in the U.S. (See HIS 459)

AMS 461 Asian Americana: Theorizing Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality Across Difference (See ASA 361)

AMS 465 Latino Urban History (See HIS 465)

AMS 471 Abraham Lincoln and America, 1809-1865 (See HIS 470)

AMS 474 Violence in America (See HIS 474)

AMS 479 Society, Politics, and Ideas in 1980s America (See HIS 479)

AMS 482 Arab America: Culture, Activism, and Resistance (See HIS 482)

AMS 484 Borderlands, Border Lives (See HIS 484)