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.


DirectorProfessor Tanya Sheehan (Art)
Professor Margaret McFadden; Associate Professor Laura Saltz; Assistant Professors Laura Fugikawa and Benjamin Lisle; Faculty Fellow Amber Hickey
Advisory Committee: Professors Cedric Bryant (English), James Fleming (Science, Technology, and Society), and Cheryl Townsend Gilkes (African-American Studies and Sociology); Associate Professors Lisa Arellano (Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies), Chandra Bhimull (African-American Studies and Anthropology), Maple Rasza (Anthropology and Global Studies), Katherine Stubbs (English), and Steve Wurtzler (Cinema Studies); Assistant Professors Damon Mayrl (Sociology), Jay Sibara (English), 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 or visual culture course); and two electives at or 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 four courses taken off campus 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.)


  • 232 Oral History Ethnographic Research Lab: Waterville Main Street
  • 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
  • 334 Black Radical Imaginations
  • 341 Culture, Mobility, Identity: Encounters in the African Diaspora
  • 361 Militaries, Militarization, and War
  • 365 Space, Place, and Belonging
  • 373 The Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality
  • 374 Public Anthropology
  • 421 Anthropology of Creativity


  • 216 Facing America: Race and Representation, 1492 to the Present
  • 244 Moving Images: Magic Lantern to Virtual Reality
  • 279 20th-Century Art
  • 423 Modern Exhibition Culture

Cinema Studies

  • 215 The Image of Women and Men in American Film
  • 243 Narrative Film Production
  • 245 Documentary Video Production: An Editor’s Perspective
  • 247 Visual Storytelling: Found Materials and the Archive
  • 248 Digital Publishing: Telling Stories Online
  • 251 History of International Cinema I
  • 284 Documentary Film: History and Theory
  • 286 U.S. Cinema: The Studio System, 1930-1960
  • 287 1930s U.S. Media
  • 297 Video Games and Game Studies
  • 321 Topics in Film Theory (when appropriate)


  • 201 Education and Social Justice
  • 213 Schools and Society
  • 215 Children and Adolescents in Schools and Society
  • 242 History and Philosophy of Progressive Education
  • 245 Dimensions of Educational Equity
  • 249 Achievement Gap
  • 322 Social Class and Schooling
  • 324 Elite Schooling in Global Context


  • 239 Literature Against Distortion
  • 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
  • 283 Environmental Humanities
  • 331 Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville
  • 333 Environmental Revolutions in American Literature and Culture
  • 336 Early American Women Writers
  • 337 Climate Fiction
  • 338 Narratives of Contact and Captivity
  • 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
  • 352 Hang and Rattle: The West in the American Imaginary
  • 353 The American Short Story
  • 354 Slavery and the American Literary Imagination
  • 369 Reading Race Now: 21st-Century Multiethnic-American Literature
  • 413A Author Course: Toni Morrison
  • 413F Author Course: William Faulkner
  • 422 Queer Theory and U.S. Literatures and Cultures
  • 457 American Gothic Literature
  • 493 Seminar in American Literature

Environmental Studies

  • 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis

French Studies

  • 236 Introduction to the Francophone World: The Americas
  • 351 Minority Issues and Social Change in the Americas

Global Studies

  • 255 Global Health: Critical Perspectives on Health, Care, and Policy
  • 352 Global Activism: From Socialist Internationalism to Today
  • 455 Intervention: The Ethics and Politics of Humanitarianism


  • 210 Interest-Group Politics
  • 211 The American Presidency
  • 214 Parties and the Electoral Process
  • 228 Introduction to Race, Ethnicity, and Politics
  • 273 American Political Thought
  • 312 Suburban Politics
  • 313 National Powers in American Constitutional Law
  • 314 Civil Liberties in American Constitutional Law
  • 316 Presidential Electoral Politics
  • 320 The Rights Revolution and Its Discontents
  • 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
  • 233 Native Americans to 1850
  • 234 Native Americans since 1850
  • 239 The Era of the Civil War
  • 241 History of Colby College
  • 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
  • 248 Nuclear Visions, Environmental Realities
  • 283 Golden Diaspora: Modern American Jewish History
  • 297 History of the U.S. West
  • 2XX Women and Religion in the U.S.
  • 330 Global Histories of Food
  • 334 The Great Depression: America in the 1930s
  • 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
  • 348 U.S. Environmental History
  • 397 Race, Labor, and Gender in the 19th-Century U.S.
  • 398 Atlantic World and Beyond: New England in Global History
  • 3XX Maine in Japan
  • 3XX United States as Empire
  • 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
  • 297 Philosophy of Sex and Gender
  • 328 Radical Ecologies
  • 352 American Philosophy


  • 253 Social Psychology

Religious Studies

  • 217 Religion in the Americas
  • 221 The Jews of Maine
  • 232 American Spirituality and the Environment
  • 256 The African-American Religious Experience
  • 257 Women in American Religion
  • 285 Faith, Class, and Community
  • 297 Religion and Politics in the U.S.
  • 312 Global South Asia: Literature, Art, Environment
  • 319 Bollywood and Beyond: South Asian Religions through Film
  • 357 Jesus Christ Superstar: The Bible in Film
  • 397 God and the American Essay

Science, Technology, and Society

  • 485 Technology Matters


  • 214J African-American Elites and Middle Classes
  • 222 Migration and Migrants in the United States
  • 231 Contemporary Social Problems
  • 232 Revolutions and Revolutionaries
  • 234 Capital Punishment in America
  • 236 American Religion and Society
  • 238 State, Society, and Politics
  • 243 College in Crisis?
  • 247 Universal Health Care: Could It Work Here?
  • 252 Race, Ethnicity, and Society
  • 262 Comparative Perspectives on Inequality
  • 266 Gender, Work, and Family
  • 268 Social Policy and Inequality
  • 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
  • 359 Sociologies of Slavery and Slave Communities in the United States
  • 364 Policing the American City
  • 366 American Class Structure


  • 276 U.S. Latina/Chicana Women Writers
  • 338 The Diasporic Imagination: Cubans beyond Cuba

Theater and Dance

  • 297 Choreography for the Camera: The Art of Athletics

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
  • 342 Political Violence: American Cultures of Radicalism
  • 343 Native and Postcolonial Feminisms
  • 397A Native American Women and Two Spirit Writers
  • 493 Seminar (when appropriate)