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American Studies

American Studies

What would Mark Twain and Bob Dylan think about the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? Would Abigail Adams have enjoyed the musical Hamilton? 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.

The major is built around a core series of courses that explore longstanding, deeply embedded paradoxes in American culture, such as: How do we make sense of the fact that slave-owning southerners were the fiercest advocates of liberty? That a British loyalist who fled revolutionary Boston for exile in London came to be seen as America’s most patriotic painter? That the CIA sponsored an international exhibition of modern art as evidence of America’s love of freedom while powerful senators denounced modern art as communistic?

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 course.

College Bulletin