The Major

American StudiesThe American Studies Program, an ten-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.

Majors Form 2020


Ten courses are required for the major, of which three are required courses and seven 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

Seven Elective Courses

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

  • Four should be chosen from your primary specialization field.
  • The remaining three electives must represent each of the remaining three fields, to ensure breadth of your study.
  • At least one of your seven electives should cover pre-1900 American history or culture.

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 both the chair and prospective faculty adviser in the fall or winter of their junior year. Students who wish to pursue honors must submit a brief proposal describing their project to the Chair of the American Studies Program by the time of spring registration of their junior year.  Final admission to the honors thesis program will depend on the AMST advisory committee’s assessment of the qualifications to the student and the merits and feasibility of the project (including the availability of relevant faculty advisers).  If your thesis is approved, you will enroll in AMST 491/ Winter Study/AMST 492.  These courses, taken together, count as one of your required electives.


All majors will be assigned a faculty adviser. Majors must meet with their adviser 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.  Many of the courses offered by Williams at Mystic Program also count toward the major.  Please see chair if you have questions about how your study abroad my enhance your American Studies experience.

Students planning to be away in the junior year should have taken American Studies 101 before they leave; those who can take the Junior Seminar before they go away are strongly encouraged to do so.  Students should consult as early as possible with the chair or their adviser about their plans for fulfilling the requirements of the major.