Would Thomas Jefferson have put a “Stop WalMart” bumper sticker on his car? Would Henry David Thoreau give a “thumbs up” to the movie Fight Club? What would Mark Twain and Bob Dylan think about the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? These are some of the questions explored in American Studies, a program that engages students in the study of American culture from the perspective of a variety of academic disciplines, including history and literature, art history, philosophy, and political science.
With a foundation in the U. S. History survey, the major is built around two introductory courses, each of which traces a particular theme in American culture from the colonial era to the present: “Perspectives on the American Dream” and “Individualism and Community in American Life.” Electives within the major are selected in consultation with the student’s advisor and are drawn from related departments. The capstone of the major is a seminar taken in the senior year in which students undertake a research project focusing on some aspect of contemporary American culture that reflects the themes of the introductory courses.