The Major

American StudiesThe American Studies Program, an eleven-course major, uses interdisciplinary approaches to develop students’ understanding of the complexity of the culture(s) usually labeled “American.” Examining history, literature, visual media, performance, and other forms of expression, we explore the processes of cultural definition as contested by diverse individuals and groups. We ask new questions about aspects of American life long taken for granted; we also use American culture as a laboratory for testing classic and contemporary theories about how cultures work.


Eleven courses are required for the major, of which three are required courses and eight are elective courses.

Three Required Courses

All majors must complete three required courses:

  • American Studies 101
  • American Studies 301(Junior Seminar)
  • One 400-level course designated as a Senior Seminar

Eight Elective Courses

Besides the three required courses, all majors must also complete at least eight elective courses.

  • Five must be chosen from one of the specializations listed below, and
  • The remaining three must be chosen from two of the other specializations.
  • Majors are also required to take at least one course covering pre-1900 American history or culture; this can be one of the eight electives.

Specializations Within the Department

Specializations currently offered:

The Degree with Honors in American Studies

Candidates for honors in American Studies will undertake a substantial, year-long independent project during their Senior year. Applicants should have a consistent record of high achievement in courses taken for the major, and normally will have done work in the field of study of their proposed thesis. Students who wish to write or produce an honors project should consult with a prospective faculty advisor in their junior year. Formal application to pursue honors should be made by the time of spring registration in the junior year. Students must submit a 1- to 2-page preliminary proposal describing the proposed project to the Chair of the American Studies Program at this time. Final admission to the honors thesis program will depend on the AMST advisory committee’s assessment of the qualifications of the student and the merits and feasibility of the project. If the proposal is approved, they will be permitted to register for AMST 491, W30, and AMST 492 the following year. The completed project is due in mid-April. Each student will present a short oral presentation of his or her thesis at the end of spring semester. Honors Theses count as one of the eleven courses required for the major.


All majors will be assigned a faculty advisor. Majors must meet with their advisor during the first week of classes during the fall semester and at the time of the spring semester registration period in order to have their courses and plans for the American Studies major approved. Both majors and non-majors are encouraged to talk at any time with the program chair or other affiliated faculty about the major.

American Studies and Other Programs

Students majoring in American Studies are encouraged to consider pursuing concentrations in Africana Studies, Environmental Studies, Latina/o Studies, Performance Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies. Many of the courses counted for those concentrations may also earn credit toward the American Studies major.

Study Away from Williams

We encourage students to pursue cross-cultural comparative studies. A major in American Studies can be combined with study away from Williams for a semester or a year if plans are made carefully. Many courses that will be approved for College credit may also count toward the American Studies major if their subject matter is American culture. Students planning to be away in the junior year should have taken American Studies 101 before they leave; those away for junior-year spring term should take a Junior Seminar in their sophomore year. Students should consult as early as possible with the chair or their advisor about their plans for fulfilling the requirements of the major.