The goal of the American Studies Program is to foster a complex understanding of American cultures, providing students with the analytical tools necessary to examine the diversity of American identities and experiences within an interdisciplinary, transnational frame.
About the Major
American studies combines the methods and perspectives of several disciplines, in particular history and literature, to examine the nation and its cultural heritage. In this way, the program represents the most enduring liberal arts principles. Yet at Hamilton, American studies is highly innovative. Its interdisciplinary approach fosters creativity and originality, encouraging students to work closely with professors to develop and pursue individual plans of study.
Students Will Learn To:
Apply different approaches to the academic studies of the Americas
Appraise diverse sets of evidence including both primary and secondary sources
Communicate clearly, coherently, and effectively
A Sampling of Courses
Roots Music to Country Music: The Making of an American Sound
Study of country music from its roots in cowboy songs, fiddle tunes, blues, bluegrass, and gospel hymns to current artists like The [Dixie] Chicks, Taylor Swift, and Brad Paisley. Artists include the Carter Family, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Lynyrd Skynyrd, & Garth Brooks. Study of the musical elements, social class, gender roles, and cultural contexts of styles such as Western Swing, Honky-Tonk, Rockabilly, the Nashville Sound, Southern Rock, and Alt-country. Includes films such as Coal Miner's Daughter, Nashville, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? No previous knowledge of music required. Music-217 has an additional independent project.
Explore these select courses:
In order to develop a broad understanding of the religious lives of Native Americans, we explore diverse practices and worldviews. We begin with an examination of how Native American worldviews are unique and differ from modern-Western worldviews. With this grounding, we delve into explorations of the multifaceted history of Native American traditions including the Ghost Dance, the Sun Dance, religious freedom issues pertaining to the use of peyote, struggles over sacred places, and complex native engagements with Christianity.
This course explores a variety of roles religion has played in American culture(s) and some of the ways that American culture has influenced Americans’ religious practices. We will focus on three areas: identity (Americanism), politics (Ballots), and economics (Consumption). In particular, we will consider how religion is involved in the construction of American identity and the exclusion of some people from American polity; how religion is (and is not) intertwined with our political system; and how religion affects – and is affected by – Americans’ economic practices
We are bombarded with images, in myriad forms, on a daily basis. How do we interpret and analyze them? What is the relationship between an online advertisement for a movie and the movie itself, between a television program and a video game? An overview of contemporary media theory as it relates to visual culture in the 21st century. Readings will include seminal works in psychoanalytic theory, cultural studies, semiotics, postmodern theory, new media studies and visual studies.
The writing of the men and women inside the American prison system constitutes a kind of shadow canon to that of better-known literary artists. We will read broadly in 20th- and 21st-century American prison writing, asking questions about the generic coherence, social and moral import of incarcerated people’s non-fiction, fiction and poetry. Authors will include Jack London, George Jackson, Assata Shakur, and citizens serving time today. Students who are twenty-one or older will visit a book group inside a state prison.
Historical debates over the metaphysics and ethics of personhood with an examination of some early American texts by Bradstreet and Lincoln, and Emerson and Thoreau’s Transcendentalism. Emphasis on classical Pragmatist metaphysics and epistemology through the work of Peirce, James and Dewey, with attention to their neo-Pragmatist legacies in contemporary American philosophy.
Here’s a lesson Konstantin Tokarr ’19 has learned from doing his summer research on low-income housing development in Greater New York City suburbia: getting the information you need can be difficult. But he’s not complaining.
True, Anna O’Keefe ’18 does not play squash. Still, she graduated straight into a perfect-fit job at CitySquash, a nonprofit that helps prepare economically disadvantaged students to dominate the T (it’s a squash thing) and, more critically, for college.
Careers After Hamilton
Hamilton graduates who concentrated in American studies are pursuing careers in a variety of fields, including:
Sales Planning Manager, Time Inc.
Business Analyst, Northern Trust Bank
Staff Writer, South Philly Review
Senior Associate Director of Content, University of Chicago
Marketing Manager, Terra Resort Group
Assistant Professor, New York University
Architectural Historian, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission