American Studies Program

American studies is an interdisciplinary major that enables students to explore the complex interactions of histories, cultures, identities, and representations that have shaped the experiences of those living in the United States. A three-course sequence provides majors with a shared, increasingly rigorous engagement with the theories, methods, and skills central to the field. Within this framework students craft an individualized course of study drawing on the program’s strengths in visual culture, popular culture, gender and sexuality studies, American ethnic studies, transnationalism, and cultural geography.

American studies majors learn a multiplicity of approaches that enable them to draw on and move between traditional academic disciplines. This interdisciplinary methodology informs all aspects of students’ critical thinking about American cultures as they engage in analytical writing, thoughtful discussion, formal oral presentations, and independent research. The program aims to train students to be deeply and critically involved in the texts, forms, and practices that constitute the world around them and to enable them to participate meaningfully in the political, cultural, and intellectual worlds they inhabit.


DirectorAssociate Professor Laura Saltz (American Studies)
Advisory Committee: Professors Debra Campbell (Religious Studies), James Fleming (Science, Technology, and Society), Cheryl Townsend Gilkes (African-American Studies and Sociology), and Margaret McFadden (American Studies); Associate Professors Lisa Arellano (American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies), Chandra Bhimull (African-American Studies and Anthropology), Maple Rasza (Anthropology and Global Studies), Tanya Sheehan (Art), Katherine Stubbs (English), and Steve Wurtzler (Cinema Studies); Assistant Professors Benjamin Lisle (American Studies), Daniel Tortora (History), and Natalie Zelensky (Music).

Requirements +

Requirements for the Major in American Studies

The American studies major requires 11 courses—four in American studies (American Studies 171, 393, 493, and one elective); two in American history (one pre-1865 and one post-1865); three in American literature and visual culture (one pre-1865, one post-1865), and any other American literature course, or a literature in translation course, or a course in visual culture; and two electives above the 200 level, selected from a list of appropriate courses or approved by the American studies advisor. In fulfilling the electives, students are encouraged to take courses with a transnational focus and/or with elements of experiential learning.

Of the required courses, American Studies 171 and the two history courses are normally taken before the end of the second year.

The point scale for retention of the major applies to all courses offered toward the major. No requirement for the major may be taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory. No more than five courses taken abroad may be counted toward the major.

Attention is called to the major in African-American studies; requirements are listed under “African-American Studies.”

Senior Projects

All senior majors will take American Studies 493, which requires them to research, write, and present a significant original project. The presentations are typically made as part of the annual Colby Liberal Arts Symposium.

Honors Program

Students majoring in American studies may apply during their junior year for admission to the honors program. Permission is required; students must have a 3.5 GPA in the major to be eligible to apply. Successful completion of the work of the honors thesis, and of the major requirements, will enable the student to graduate with “Honors in American Studies.”

Other Applicable Courses +

Courses from Other Departments That May Be Applied to the American Studies Major

Students who can provide a compelling rationale may petition the American Studies Program to apply courses not listed here.  (Not all courses are offered every year; check curriculum for availability.)


  • 236 Illegal Drugs, Law, and the State
  • 244 Anthropology of Religion
  • 246 Religion and Everyday Life in Muslim Societies
  • 253 Goods, Gifts, and Globalizing Consumers
  • 256 Land, Food, Culture, and Power
  • 259 Reading Ethnography
  • 313 Researching Cultural Diversity
  • 341 Culture, Mobility, Identity: Encounters in the African Diaspora
  • 373 The Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality
  • 374 Public Anthropology
  • 421 Anthropology of Creativity


  • 231 Latin American Art and Architecture, 1492-1820
  • 279 20th-Century Art
  • 372 Economy of Art
  • 423 Modern Exhibition Culture
  • 493 Seminar (when appropriate)

Cinema Studies

  • 215 The Image of Women and Men in American Film
  • 243 Narrative Film Production
  • 248 Digital Publishing: Telling Stories Online
  • 251 History of International Cinema I
  • 321 Topics in Film Theory (when appropriate)


  • 201 Education and Social Justice
  • 213 Schools and Society
  • 215 Children and Adolescents in Schools and Society
  • 322 Social Class and Schooling
  • 324 Elite Schooling in Global Context


  • 255 Studies in American Literary History: Pre-1860
  • 256 Studies in American Literary History: Civil War to the Present
  • 264 Comparative Studies: Emily Dickinson and English Poetry
  • 333 Environmental Revolutions in American Literature and Culture
  • 336 Early American Women Writers
  • 341 American Realism and Naturalism: Then and Now
  • 343 African-American Literature: Speaking in Tongues
  • 345 Modern American Fiction
  • 346 Culture and Literature of the American South
  • 347 Modern American Poetry
  • 351 Contemporary American Poetry
  • 353 The American Short Story
  • 354 Slavery and the American Literary Imagination
  • 369 Reading Race Now: 21st-Century Multiethnic-American Literature
  • 413 Authors Courses (when appropriate)
  • 422 Queer Theory and U.S. Literatures and Cultures
  • 435 Narratives of Contact and Captivity
  • 457 American Gothic Literature
  • 493 Seminar in American Literature

Environmental Studies

  • 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis

Global Studies

  • 255 Global Health: Critical Perspectives on Health, Care, and Policy
  • 455 Intervention: The Ethics and Politics of Humanitarianism


  • 210 Interest-Group Politics
  • 211 The American Presidency
  • 214 Parties and the Electoral Process
  • 273 American Political Thought
  • 313 National Powers in American Constitutional Law
  • 314 Civil Liberties in American Constitutional Law
  • 316 Presidential Electoral Politics
  • 318 Money and Politics
  • 320 The Rights Revolution and Its Discontents
  • 413 Seminar: Policy Advocacy
  • 414 Seminar: Ethics in Politics
  • 432 Seminar: U.S. Foreign Policy


  • 131 Survey of U.S. History, to 1865
  • 132 Survey of U.S. History, 1865 to the Present
  • 231 American Women’s History, to 1870
  • 232 American Women’s History, 1870 to the Present
  • 233 Native Americans to 1850
  • 234 Native Americans since 1850
  • 239 The Era of the Civil War
  • 242 Colonial North America
  • 245 Science, Race, and Gender
  • 246 Luddite Rantings: A Historical Critique of Big Technology
  • 247 African-American History, from Slavery to Freedom
  • 283 Golden Diaspora: Modern American Jewish History
  • 334 The Great Depression: America in the 1930s
  • 336 After Appomattox
  • 337 The Age of the American Revolution
  • 338 History in Reverse: Backwards through the Records from Now to Then
  • 342 Crisis and Reform: American Society and Politics in the 1960s
  • 432 Research Seminar: Native Americans in New England
  • 447 Research Seminar: The Cold War


  • 222 Maine’s Musical Soundscapes: Ethnography of Maine
  • 262 Music in Life, Music as Culture: Introduction to Ethnomusicology


  • 213 Philosophical Inquiries into Race
  • 217 Feminism and Science
  • 243 Environmental Ethics
  • 352 American Philosophy


  • 253 Social Psychology

Religious Studies

  • 217 Religion in the United States
  • 221 The Jews of Maine
  • 256 The African-American Religious Experience
  • 257 Women in American Religion
  • 319 Bollywood and Beyond: South Asian Religions through Film
  • 357 Jesus Christ Superstar: The Bible in Film

Science, Technology, and Society

  • 485 Technology Matters


  • 231 Contemporary Social Problems
  • 243 College in Crisis?
  • 252 Race, Ethnicity, and Society
  • 259 Activism and Social Movements
  • 273 Sociology of Families
  • 274 Social Inequality and Power
  • 276 Sociology of Gender
  • 355 African-American Women and Social Change
  • 357 Civil Rights, Black Power, and Social Change
  • 358 The Sociology of W.E.B. Du Bois
  • 364 Policing the American City
  • 493 Senior Seminar in Sociology (when appropriate)


  • 267 Family/History/Nation: Latina/o Genealogies
  • 276 U.S. Latina/Chicana Women Writers

Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

  • 201 Introduction to Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • 223 Critical Race Feminisms and Tap Dance
  • 232 Queer Identities and Politics
  • 311 Feminist Theories and Methodologies
  • 317 Boys to Men
  • 341 Gender and Human Rights
  • 493 Seminar (when appropriate)