American Studies

You will explore U.S. civilization and culture across disciplines, in particular history and literature. You may find yourself looking at the U.S. in a way you hadn’t imagined, for instance from the perspective of art history, theatre, government or Africana studies.

Elliot Nathan '17

A student’s interdisciplinary route

Hosting a college radio show at 1 a.m., which is not exactly drive time, is fun for Elliot Nathan ’17 because he can play whatever he wants. Maybe there’s a parallel there with his American studies major. He first considered majoring in government, then English. When he discovered American studies, Nathan thought, “It seems like it would be great for me just through the combination of English, history – the ability to just take a variety of courses in a variety of departments and turn them into my own major and my own direction.” Turns out he was right about that. Nathan is still shaping the focus of his major but says it likely will involve identity and representation in American literature, cinema and television.

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“As an American studies major, I would recommend it for anybody who wants to think critically about what America is, what it represents, how the identity of America has been shaped through historical forces,” he says. “It’s really forced me to examine myself and a lot of what I believed as an American.”

Jack McManus '13 landed a job as arts editor at a Vermont newspaper.
Jack McManus '13 landed a job as arts editor at a Vermont newspaper.

A graduate’s progess: a job as an editor

Jack McManus ’13 was determined to be a music journalist but pretty much selected his courses at Hamilton College for the love of them. He majored in American studies and minored in medieval and Renaissance studies. Not long after he graduated, he became arts editor of the Bennington Banner newspaper in Vermont.

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“I may not have learned the specifics of the industry, but I did develop an amazingly useful understanding of American culture and identity in the American studies program,” he says. “By far the most useful thing I learned at Hamilton was actually how to learn efficiently – classes on things like Latino-American history and Canadian literature – showed me how to take on an unfamiliar subject and become an authority on it as fast as possible.”

McManus says his experiences at The Spectator student newspaper and WHCL, the student radio station,  taught him to work collaboratively to produce a product he could be proud of.

“My highest ambition has always been to establish myself as a music journalist, and the opportunities I had at Hamilton have already been enormously helpful in my pursuit,” he says.