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 Cedric Gael Bryant (English), Debra Campbell (Religious Studies), 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 (History 131 or 231, and 132 or 232); three in American literature and visual culture (one pre-1900, one post-1900), 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 and 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, History 131/231 and 132/232 and American Studies 171 should be 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, 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.)


  • 313 Researching Cultural Diversity
  • 341 Culture, Mobility, Identity: Encounters in the African Diaspora


  • 211 Introduction to Museum Education
  • 493 Seminar (when appropriate)

Cinema Studies

  • 251 History of International Cinema I
  • 321 Topics in Film Theory (when appropriate)


  • 215 Children and Adolescents: Cases and Concepts
  • 231 Teaching for Social Justice
  • 235 Multiculturalism and the Political Project
  • 324 Elite Schooling in Global Context
  • 332 Practicum in Girls’ Development and Education


  • 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
  • 336 Early American Women Writers
  • 341 American Realism and Naturalism
  • 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 American Short Story
  • 369 Reading Race Now: 21st-Century Multiethnic American Literature
  • 364 Buddhism in American Poetry
  • 413 Authors Courses (when appropriate)
  • 457 American Gothic Literature
  • 493 Seminar in American Literature

Environmental Studies

  • 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis


  • 210 Interest-Group Politics
  • 211 The American Presidency
  • 214 Parties and the Electoral Process
  • 273 American Political Thought
  • 313 Federalism 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
  • 335 United States-Latin American Relations
  • 413 Seminar: Policy Advocacy
  • 414 Seminar: Ethics in Politics
  • 432 Seminar: United States 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
  • 239 The Era of the Civil War
  • 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
  • 336 After Appomattox
  • 337 The Age of the American Revolution
  • 342 Crisis and Reform: American Society and Politics in the 1960s
  • 435 Research Seminar: The American Civil War
  • 447 Research Seminar: The Cold War


  • 213 Philosophical Inquiries into Race
  • 352 American Philosophy


  • 253 Social Psychology
  • 352 Sex and Gender Seminar

Religious Studies

  • 217 Religion in the United States
  • 221 The Jews of Maine
  • 256 The African-American Religious Experience

Science, Technology, and Society

  • 271 History of Science in America
  • 297 Human/Nature in the 21st Century
  • 485 Technology Matters


  • 231 Contemporary Social Problems
  • 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
  • 493 Senior Seminar in Sociology (when appropriate)


  • 276 U.S. Latina/Chicana Women Writers

Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

  • 201 Introduction to Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • 232 Queer Identities and Politics
  • 297 Feminist Bodies
  • 311 Topics in Feminist Theory
  • 317 Boys to Men