American Studies

American Studies Major

PEL students interested in American Studies should contact Dr. Catherine Griggs at griggscm@eckerd.edu

American Studies is a broad, interdisciplinary major in American civilization that focuses upon American experience and identity, past and present, using the methods and approaches of a variety of academic disciplines, as well as the distinctive cultural perspective of American Studies. At Eckerd College, the program is built around the core disciplines of history, literature, and political science. In order to allow students to shape their courses of study to their own intellectual goals, the major may also include courses in diverse fields such as philosophy, religion, art, economics, communication, women's and gender studies, and sociology, provided that the courses are related to understanding the society and culture of the United States. Each student's program is developed in consultation with faculty, and should form a consistent pattern of courses in American culture and institutions.

Students who complete the American Studies major demonstrate the following competencies:

  • Knowledge of American history, institutions, environment, values, and culture from an interdisciplinary perspective, with an emphasis on American experience and identity past and present, demonstrated by the ability to talk and write intelligently and effectively about these topics.
  • Knowledge of the development of the field of American Studies as an academic discipline, including its methods, scope, and perspectives.
  • Understanding of a core discipline in American Studies (e.g., American history, American literature, American government, political science, etc.) and how it relates to the larger field of American Studies, as well as how the study of the core discipline is enriched by the interdisciplinary approach of American Studies.
  • Familiarity with the classic works in American Studies and the ability to evaluate the author's methodology.
  • Demonstrated ability to undertake a research project that will explore important issues and problems in methodology and interpretation of American Studies.

A major in American Studies consists of a minimum of eleven courses. Six of the eleven courses must be beyond the introductory level. Electives in the major should be chosen in consultation with discipline faculty. Each student majoring in American Studies must pass a senior comprehensive examination, or, if invited by the faculty, write a senior thesis.

The American Studies major should include at least five courses from one of the core disciplines of history, literature, or political science. An introductory survey course in the core discipline should be chosen in consultation with discipline faculty. Majors should also choose at least three American Studies courses, one of which must be AM 201H. At least two additional courses should be chosen from American Studies or another discipline that directly relates to the study of American culture and society. In addition to courses from another of the core disciplines, students may choose courses in the following areas: courses that have a comparative perspective or that place American culture or society in a global context; Cultural Studies courses in media, communication, and representation, with a substantial component dealing with the United States; courses with an African American or Women's and Gender Studies emphasis, or courses with an environmental or pre-law focus, with a substantial component dealing with the United States.

Career Opportunities

Meet the Lawyers of PEL

American Studies offers a broad general education in the liberal arts that fosters critical thinking, excellent problem solving skills, and the ability to express oneself articulately in both oral and written modes of communication. The American Studies program in PEL integrates the use of technology into many of its course offerings, promoting not only technical skills, but sophisticated understanding of this new medium of communication that is changing contemporary culture.

In PEL, the American Studies program provides outstanding preparation for a career in law. Many American Studies majors find that the interdisciplinary nature of American Studies makes perfect preparation for law school, with its emphasis on critical reading, evaluation of argument, and critique of facts and assumptions. Many American Studies majors become lawyers; others become paralegals or conflict resolution arbitrators in human resources. Others enter public service and administration and serve as legislative staff at all levels of government. Some have become officers of granting agencies, foundations, and non-profit organizations.

In addition to law-related careers, American Studies provides excellent preparation for careers as diverse as education, commerce, marketing, public relations, business, publishing, media, politics, government, Foreign Service, public administration, non-profit management, and varying roles in public cultural institutions such as museums, and historic preservation.

The Program

Tracks are offered in history, literature, political science, communication and media studies. In order to allow students to shape their courses of study to their own intellectual goals, the major may also include courses in diverse fields such as philosophy, religion, art, economics, women’s and gender studies, and sociology, provided that the courses are related to understanding the society and culture of the United States.

Students who wish to focus on political science, cultural anthropology, minority, ethnic, or women’s issues should choose appropriate courses in consultation with the American Studies Program Coordinator.

A major in American Studies consists of a minimum of eleven courses: six courses in the general American Studies area and five courses from the chosen track. The general American Studies courses are as follows:

  • AM 201H Introduction to American Civilization
  • 1 American Studies elective
  • 2 American Studies related courses from a discipline other than the chosen track. The courses should have a comparative perspective or place American culture or society in a global context. They may be courses in museum studies, public culture, media, and communication, with a substantial component dealing with the United States; courses with an African American or Women’s and Gender Studies emphasis; or courses with an environmental focus, with a substantial component dealing with the United States. They may be American Studies courses.
  • AM 401 Integrating American Studies
  • AM 498 Comprehensive Examination

The following tracks are offered in American Studies:

History Track

  • HI 205H The American Experience
  • 4 courses in American History

Political Science Track

  • PO 301S Constitution and Government Power or PO 302S Constitution and Individual Rights
  • Four other political science courses with a substantial American focus. Other courses may be, selected in consultation with the American Studies Coordinator, including but not limited to courses such as the following: HI 336H Civil Rights Movement, AM 322H Business of American Culture, and AM 336H.

Literature Track

  • Five courses in American Literature.

Environmental Humanities

Five courses with a substantial environmental American focus, chosen in consultation with the discipline mentor from the following courses:
  • Environment in American Thought
  • Environmental History
  • Major Environmental American Writers
  • Ecotheology
  • Environmental Film Colloquium
  • Environmental Ethics
  • West and the Movies
  • Nature and Popular Culture
  • Environmental Policies and Policy

Media and Communication Track

In American Studies, the Communication and Media Studies Track emphasizes the importance of communication in society and poses critical questions about society and the ways that knowledge and information are conveyed to the public. The primary focus of the track will be the role of media in the representation of cultural knowledge through journalism, television and culture, media criticism, and the history of film, with emphasis on the roles of communication and media in American life.

  • American film class (e.g., AM 310H American Cinema or AM 325H West and the Movies)
  • CM 360A Media Ethics or CM 221A Media and Society
  • 3 Courses in media communications including but not limited to CM 360A Media Ethics, CM 221A Media and Society, AM 310 American Cinema, AM 325H West and the Movies, AM 203H Television and American Life, AM 319E Environmental Film Festival.

Course Sequencing

Students should take Introduction to American Civilization and the survey courses in their core disciplines as early as possible. Courses in the major should be chosen in consultation with the American Studies program coordinator and should form a consistent pattern of courses in American culture and institutions. Six of the ten required courses must be beyond the introductory level.

American Studies Minor

The American Studies minor consists of five courses:

  • AM 201H Introduction to American Civilization
  • 4 American Studies electives

Three of the five courses must be at the 300 level or above. The four electives should be chosen in consultation with American Studies discipline faculty.

Get Started Today

Apply Now
Get More Info
View Financial Aid