American Studies Curriculum

Since its inception in the late 1930s, the discipline of American Studies has aimed to foster new understandings of America and its multiple peoples and cultures in a rapidly changing world. Its focus on the historical and intellectual underpinnings of the cultures, societies, religions and politics of colonial America and the United States has continually returned to one central question: What does it mean to be an American? As the answers to this question have changed in response to demographic, economic, and political transformations, the discipline of American Studies has continually re-examined its methods and central questions. Shifting from an earlier emphasis on American uniqueness, or exceptionalism, American Studies has been for the past several decades the academic discipline most creatively and rigorously engaged in analyzing the complex and multi-layered expressions of American pluralism and diversity.

American Studies offers interdisciplinary perspectives on American cultures and societies, American identities, and American political cultures and institutions. The curriculum introduces students to the major ideas and methods of the discipline, hones critical understandings of these methods in advanced courses, and ends with senior level seminars aimed at the highest level of research. To add stature and credibilitiy to the major, a 6-credit Senior Thesis is offered, allowing exceptional students the opportunity to sharpen their critical abilities and improve their research techniques by developing a year-long project. 

Students are introduced to the themes and issues dominant in American Studies (AMST) in Introduction to American Studeis, taken at the freshman or sophomore level and intended as a gateway to the major. This required course, which explores key concepts, texts, and methods in American Studies and familiarizes students with the discipline's working vocabulary and practices, is offered in the fall semester, and should be taken before students take AMST courses at the 30000 level. It may be taken concurrently with a 30000-level course in AMST, pending approval of a faculty adviser in American Studies.

The introductory course is followed by eight different upper-level courses in AMST, each of which continues to explore concepts, texts, and methods particular to the discipline of American Stuides. 

Of the eight upper-level courses, up to two courses may be taken from different departments, either on campus or through an off-campus Notre Dame program, as long as they are cross-listed with American Studies or otherwise approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Finally, AMST majors complete their coursework with the Senior Seminar in American Studies, a required 40000-level course which serves as a capstone to the major. Requirements include seminar-style discussions and a significant research project.


Contact Director of Undergraduate Studies Jason Ruiz at

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