American Studies major

What's Going On @ American Studies

Program Overview

The purpose of the American Studies program at Fairfield University is for students to engage the idea of America as it has been culturally imagined and contested throughout history, both within and beyond U.S. national borders. Students also consider their own place, engagement, and responsibilities as participants in the unfolding narratives of America within a global context.  Interdisciplinary in its goal, the program draws from a wide range of courses in the arts, humanities, and social sciences in order to help students develop the ability to read America, in all its manifestations, as a rich and dynamic cultural artifact.

Offered as both a major and minor, our course variety allows you to create your own line of study, or a double major- combining American Studies with a traditional academic discipline - giving you some extra advantages towards future careers in business, law, education, public service or graduate studies.

 

Requirements

Requirements for Major: 

For a 30 credit major (10 courses) in American Studies, students must complete the following: 

  1. Required Courses:
    • 1 Gateway course
    • AS 200: Roots of American Culture, typically taken during junior year
    • AS 399: Independent Study Research Project, taken during senior year
  2. Four courses minimum selected from cross-listed courses housed in 4 different departments (for ex. AS/HI; AS/TA; AS/EN; AS/SO; AS/MU; AS/PO)
  3. Two courses minimum beyond AS 200 and AS 399 must be Junior/Senior/Graduate level
  4. Five courses (selected in consultation with advisor) are housed within a thematic concentration:
    • Expression and Imagination in American Culture
    • Power, Politics, and Institutions in America
    • Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration in American Society
    • Gender in American Society
    • Values and Ethics in American Culture
    • America and the World

Majors may take AS 350: Internship (3 credits) as one of their 10 courses

Requirements for Minor:

For a 15-credit minor (5 courses) in American Studies, students must complete the following:

  1. Required Courses:
    • 1 Gateway course
    • AS 200: Roots of American Culture, taken during junior year
  2. Electives:
    • Three courses must be selected from cross-listed courses housed in 3 different departments (for ex. AS/HI; AS/TA; AS/EN; AS/SO; AS/MU; AS/PO)

Fairfield University also offers a Master of Arts degree in American Studies. The 400-level core and elective courses in that program are available to qualified senior undergraduate American studies majors and minors with approval of the program director.

Course Offerings

See American Studies course descriptions from our catalog for more information 

American Studeies Gateway Courses

Art History

  • AH 161: American Architecture
  • AH 164: American Art: Civil War to Civil Rights
  • AH 165: The Black Experience: African American Art & Criticism in the 20th c.

English

  • EN 105: African Diaspora: Literature and Culture
  • EN 114/FR 295: Caribbean Literature: History, Culture and Identity
  • EN 120/TA 123: American Women Playwrights
  • EN 122: The Frontier in American Literature
  • EN 123: Ethnic American Literature
  • EN 124: American Literature: Myths and Legends
  • EN 125/TA120: American Drama
  • EN 126: American Social Protest Literature
  • EN 129: American Short Story
  • EN 131: Contemporary Women Writers of Color
  • EN 170: Writing the Self: Autobiography
  • EN 261: African American Literary Tradition

Film

  • FTM 101: American Cinema: History and Analysis
  • FTM 102: American Television: History and Analysis
  • FTM 206: American Film: Decades
  • FTM 207: Film Genres

History

  • HI 238: Nineteenth-century United States
  • HI 239: Twentieth-century United States
  • HI 246: Women and Gender in U.S. History
  • HI 251: The American Century?: The U.S. & the World since 1900  
  • HI 253: Early America to 1800
  • HI 257: Who Built America? Working People in American History

Music

  • MU 101: The History of Jazz
  • MU 102: The History and Development of Rock
  • MU 111: The Life and Music of George Gershwin
  • MU 112: The Music of Black Americans
  • MU 120: The History of American Song

Politics

  • PO 101: Introduction to American Politics
  • PO 115: Introduction to the Study of Peace and Justice
  • PO 204: The American Presidency
  • PO 233: American Political Thought
  • PO 234: Sex, Sexuality, and Gender
  • PO 236: The Politics of Race, Class, and Gender
  • PO 276: United States Foreign Policy

Religious Studies

  • RS 260: Religion in the United States
  • RS 360: I’m Spiritual, Not Religious: The American Spiritual Tradition

Sociology

  • SO 112: American Society
  • SO 161: American Class Structure
  • SO 162: Race Gender & Ethnic Relations
  • SO 166: Feminism, Gender & Everyday Life

Theatre

  • TA 123/EN 120: American Women Playwrights
  • TA 120/EN 125: American Drama

Interdisciplinary Themes

Expression and Imagination in American Culture

  • AS 201: American Intellectual Tradition
  • AH 161: American Architecture
  • AH 164: American Art: Civil War to Civil Rights
  • AH 165: The Black Experience: African American Art & Criticism in the 20th c.
  • EN 105: African Diaspora: Literature and Culture
  • EN 114/FR 295: Caribbean Literature: History, Culture and Identity
  • EN 122: The Frontier in American Literature
  • EN 123: Ethnic American Literature
  • EN 124: American Literature: Myths and Legends
  • EN 202: American Poetry
  • EN 207: The Contemporary American Novel
  • EN 233: American Literature, 20th Century to the Present
  • EN 234: American Women Writers of the 19th Century
  • EN 262: Harlem Renaissance
  • EN 263: African American Women Writers
  • EN 264: African American Fiction 1940-Present
  • EN 265: Contemporary African American Fiction
  • EN 281: Native American Literature
  • EN 282: Latino/a Literature
  • EN 284: American Women Writers of Color
  • EN 332: American Romanticism
  • EN 333: American Realism and Naturalism
  • EN 334: American Modernism
  • EN 335: Contemporary American Literature & Culture
  • EN 374: The Woman Question: Early Feminism & 19th c. Transatlantic Literature
  • EN 375: Caribbean Women Writers
  • EN 377: Urban Texts & Contexts
  • FTM 101: American Cinema: History and Analysis
  • FTM 102: American Television: History and Analysis
  • FTM 204: African American Cinema
  • FTM 206: American Film: Decades
  • FTM 207: Film Genres
  • MU 101: The History of Jazz
  • MU 102: The History and Development of Rock
  • MU 111: The Life and Music of George Gershwin
  • MU 120: The History of American Song
  • MU 132: Critical Issues in American Popular Music: Blues to Hip Hop (before: MU 201)
  • RS 263: New Religious Movements in America
  • RS 360: I'm Spiritual, Not Religious: The American Spiritual Tradition
  • SO 166: Feminism, Gender & Everyday Life
  • SP 353: Spanish American Narrative
  • TA 123/EN 120: American Women Playwrights
  • TA 120/EN 125: American Drama

Power, Politics, and Institutions in America

  • AH 161: American Architecture
  • BL 100/PJ 101: Black Lives Matter
  • EN 126: American Social Protest Literature
  • HI 238: Nineteenth-century United States
  • HI 239: Twentieth-century United States
  • HI 240: The Personal is Political: Women’s Activism in the 1960s
  • HI 243: American Constitutional and Legal History I, 1776 to 1900
  • HI 242: Immigration, Ethnicity, and Race in U.S. History
  • HI 244: American Constitutional and Legal History II, 1900 to Present
  • HI 250: America Enters the World, United States Foreign Relations, 1763 to 1900
  • HI 251: The American Century: The United States and the World Since 1900  
  • HI 253: Early America to 1800
  • HI 257: Who Built America? Working People in American History
  • HI 331: The American Revolution and New Nation
  • HI 356: History of the Cold War
  • PH 251: Ethical Theories in America
  • PO 101: Introduction to American Politics
  • PO 115: Introduction to the Study of Peace and Justice
  • PO 155: Public Administration
  • PO 165: Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Public Opinion
  • PO 166: American Public Policy
  • PO 169: US Environmental Politics and Policy
  • PO 204: The American Presidency
  • PO 205: United State Congress
  • PO 206: Supreme Court I
  • PO 207: Supreme Court II
  • PO 233: American Political Thought
  • PO 234: Sex, Sexuality, and Gender
  • PO 236: The Politics of Race, Class, and Gender
  • PO 276: United States Foreign Policy
  • PO 301: Battle over Family Values in American Politics
  • PO 302: Seminar on Feminist Theory
  • RS 263: New Religious Movements in America
  • SO 112: American Society
  • SO 161: American Class Structure
  • SO 162: Race Gender & Ethnic Relations
  • SO 163: Urban/Suburban Sociology
  • SO 171: Criminology
  • SO 175: Sociology of Law
  • SO 179: Death Penalty in America  

Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration in American Society

  • AH 164: American Art: Civil War to Civil Rights
  • AH 165: The Black Experience: African American Art & Criticism in the 20th Century
  • BL 100/PJ 101: Black Lives Matter
  • EN 133: African American Literary Tradition
  • EN 131: Contemporary Women Writers of Color
  • EN 122: The Frontier in American Literature
  • EN 262: Harlem Renaissance
  • EN 263: African American Women Writers
  • EN 264: African American Fiction 1940-Present
  • EN 282: Latino/a Literature
  • EN 283: Asian Diasporas: Challenges to Citizenship
  • EN 281: Native American Lit
  • EN 285: Asian American Diasporic Literatures: Ethical Challenges to Citizenship
  • EN 265: Contemporary African American Fiction
  • EN 334: American Modernism
  • EN 375: Caribbean Women Writers
  • FTM 204: African American Cinema
  • HI 238: Nineteenth-century United States
  • HI 239: Twentieth-century United States
  • HI 242: Immigration, Ethnicity, & Race in US History
  • HI 253: Early America to 1800
  • HI 257: Who Built America? Working People in American History
  • HI 262: African American History, 1619-1865
  • HI 263: Inventing Themselves: African American Women
  • HI 264: African American History, 1865-present
  • HI 331: The American Revolution and New Nation
  • HI 335: Civil War and Reconstruction
  • HI 337: Race, Violence, and Punishment in the US 1865-1976
  • HI 338: The Long Black Freedom Struggle
  • MU 112: The Music of Black Americans
  • MU 132: Critical Issues in American Popular Music: Blues to Hip Hop (before: MU 201)
  • PO 236: The Politics of Race, Class, and Gender
  • SO 165: Race, Cities and Poverty
  • SP 353: Spanish American Narrative
  • RS 213: Jews & Judaism in America
  • RS 275: Islam in America       
  • SO 112: American Society
  • SO 162: Race, Gender, & Ethnic Relations
  • SO 193: Social Work: The History of Social Welfare and Social Work
  • MU 101: The History of Jazz

Gender in American Society

  • EN 122: The Frontier in American Literature
  • EN 131: Contemporary Women Writers of Color
  • EN 234: American Women Writers of the 19th Century
  • EN 263: African American Women Writers
  • EN 282: Latino/a Literature
  • EN 374: The Woman Question: Early Feminism & 19th c. Transatlantic Literature
  • EN 375: Caribbean Women Writers
  • FTM 106: Genres: The Western
  • HI 240: The Personal is Political: Women’s Activism in the 1960s
  • HI 245: Feminism in the U.S.
  • HI 246: Women & Gender in U.S. History
  • HI 247: Family & Sexuality in American History
  • HI 257: Who Built America? Working People in American History
  • HI 263: Inventing Themselves: African American Women in U.S. History
  • MU 101: The History of Jazz
  • PO 119: Sex, Sexuality and Gender
  • PO 236: The Politics of Race, Class, and Gender
  • PO 301: Battle over Family Values in American Politics
  • PO 302: Seminar on Feminist Theory
  • SO 142: Sociology of the Family
  • SO 161: American Class Structure
  • SO 162: Race, Gender, & Ethnic Relations
  • SO 166: Feminism, Gender & Everyday Life
  • SO 169: Women: Work & Sport
  • SO 193: Social Work: The History of Social Welfare and Social Work
  • TA 123: American Women Playwrights         

Values and Ethics in American Culture

  • AS 200: American Intellectual Tradition
  • BL 100/PJ 101: Black Lives Matter
  • EN 122: The Frontier in American Literature
  • EN 126: American Social Protest Literature
  • EN 285: Asian American Diasporic Literatures: Ethical Challenges to Citizenship
  • HI 237: The American Prophetic Tradition
  • HI 258: Who Built America? Working People in American History
  • HI 338: The Long Black Freedom Struggle
  • PH 211: American Philosophy
  • PH 251: Ethical Theories in America
  • PO 169: US Environmental Politics and Policy
  • PO 236: The Politics of Race, Class, and Gender
  • PO 301: Battle over Family Values in American Politics
  • RS 213: Jews & Judaism in America
  • RS 249: American Catholic Theologians
  • RS 263: New Religious Movements in America
  • RS 265: Non Traditional American Religious Groups
  • RS 360: I’m Spiritual, Not Religious: The American Spiritual Tradition
  • SO 142: Sociology of the Family
  • SO 151: Sociology of Religion
  • SO 165: Race, Cities and Poverty
  • SO 175: Sociology of Law
  • SO 179: Death Penalty in America
  • SO 193: Social Work: The History of Social Welfare and Social Work
  • SO 279: Criminal Justice System Seminar

America and the World

  • EN 105: African Diaspora: Literature and Culture
  • EN 114/FR 295: Caribbean Literature: History, Culture and Identity
  • EN 123: Colonial Contacts and Flights
  • EN 282: Latino/a Literature
  • EN 283: Asian Diasporas: Challenges to Citizenship
  • EN 285: Asian American Diasporic Literatures: Ethical Challenges to Citizenship
  • EN 375: Caribbean Women Writers
  • HI 242: Immigration, Ethnicity, & Race in US History
  • HI 250: America Enters the World, United States Foreign Relations, 1763 to 1900
  • HI 251: The American Century: The United States and the World Since 1900    
  • HI 253: Early America to 1800
  • HI 356: History of the Cold War
  • HI 367: East Asia in 20th-Century American Wars
  • PO 267: United States Foreign Policy
  • PO 302: Seminar on Feminist Theory
  • RS 275: Islam in America
  • SO 151: Sociology of Religion
  • SO 162: Race, Gender, & Ethnic Relations
  • SP 353: Spanish American Narrative

Student Spotlight

Olivia McEvoy ‘19

Quincy, MA

get to know Olivia →

Hometown: Quincy, MA
Major: Communication and American Studies
Minor: Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Why did you choose to pursue your undergraduate degree at Fairfield University?

I enjoyed the fact that the small class sizes allowed for personalized learning in each and every subject. Additionally, the University’s Jesuit values have really helped mold my academic, personal, and professional life, as well as the way I approach my thinking. I’ll never forget walking onto campus for the first time and being greeted by individuals who were so positive and enthusiastic. It was clear that students enjoyed going to school at Fairfield, and four years later, I certainly agree!

How/Why did you choose a major in American Studies?

My American Studies major started out as a minor in my second semester. I found it to be a very unique blend of the history, politics, and popular culture, and I found myself learning inside and outside of the classroom. I tend to seek out questions off the ‘traditional path’ of knowledge, and look into themes like memory, imagination, and identity, which are often overlooked in our studies. American Studies allowed me to explore these themes. Eventually, I just kept taking more and more classes and knew it would beneficial to change my minor to a major to be able to really explore my passion.

What are the best academic aspects of the program?

The American Studies program is designed in a way that allows each student to take control of what they are learning. The introductory course, “Roots of American Culture,” is crafted in a way that students are able to understand a wide variety of concepts relating to the field of American Studies and emphasizes just how diverse and interdisciplinary this field of study can be. After this course, students are able to design the major as they see best by selecting courses rooted in politics, English, the arts, sociology, and more. No two American Studies majors are the same, and I think the ability to mold the major into each student’s specific interests is what really pushed me to declare my American Studies major.

What attributes regarding the faculty did you find particularly helpful/ encouraging?

All of my professors have proven to be incredible sources of knowledge. They challenge me to ask broader questions and are supportive of my academic interests. Because American Studies is an interdisciplinary major, the faculty members represent a variety of different fields. Yet they all hold a common interest in making sure my studies are truly interdisciplinary, and that I am utilizing other aspects of my learning both in and out of the classroom. The faculty push you - the questions they ask are meant to prompt the student to ask their own. I have really appreciated the creative liberties I have been offered to make my American Studies major exactly what I want it to be.

Describe a favorite course or project you worked on as part of the program how it helped your academic growth.

I was given a unique opportunity to conduct research on slavery in colonial Fairfield County in collaboration with the late Dr. Vincent Rosivach. The overarching goal for this project was to compile a database of slaves and slave-owners in colonial Fairfield. As with much of the New England slave-holding colonies, Fairfield’s slavery records were messy and incomplete, unlike records in the south that were kept as accurate as possible due to the impact slavery had on the economic success of the Southern planter. This project was designed to reclaim the lives of the slaves of Fairfield who were lost to incomplete historical records and to create a more accurate representation of what slavery was like in colonial New England. This includes documenting previously undocumented individuals, tracking movements of slaves from household to household, connecting families, and more.

Since Dr. Rosivach’s passing last year, my partner Alec Lurie and I have taken the responsibility of completing the project upon ourselves, and it has been named the “Vincent J. Rosivach Register for Slaves in Fairfield, Connecticut 1639-1820” in his honor. It has challenged us to develop a better understanding of how a research project of this caliber should be done, with support by members of the University and Historical societies of the surrounding area. By using Fairfield as a case study, we have been able to develop a greater understanding of slavery trends in the north. The Register hopes to streamline all the information into a conclusive, all-encompassing database, in order to ensure that all persons formerly enslaved in Fairfield are accounted for, for posterity. While we know we may not collect information about every person, we are confident that the register will lay groundwork for future historians to expand upon this research.

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Internships

If you've ever wondered if a particular career is a good fit for you, internships are a terrific way to find out. Academic credit and noncredit internships are available to Fairfield students in every field and offer hands-on, professional experience at leading companies throughout the region.

American Studies Conference

7th Annual American Studies Conference: Protest in American Culture

March 30, 2019
12 - 6 p.m.
Aloysius P. Kelley Center Presentation Room

Keynote Speakers: Madonna Thunderhawk and Marcella Gilbert
Stars of the critically-acclaimed documentary film "Warrior Women"

Attesting to the robustness of the graduate and undergraduate programs at Fairfield University, this annual conference explores the theme of protest in America politically, culturally, and socially in past and present U.S. history. 

 

Past Conferences

6th Annual Conference: ‌Memory and Nation in American Studies

March 24, 2018
Keynote Speaker: Jennifer Ladino, PhD - University of Idaho
"Memorials Matter: Monumental Affects and Emotional Environments in American Culture"

 

5th Annual Conference: ‌ The Divided States of America

March 25, 2017
Keynote Speaker: David Roediger, PhD - Kansas University
"What is the White in White Working Class"

 

4th Annual Conference: Family, Sex and Gender in  American Culture

March 19, 2016
Round table discussion: "The Politics of Family, Sex, and Gender and What It Means — or Doesn't — For the Elections of 2016"

Roundtable Participants:

  • Mr. Jonathan Rauch, guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and contributing editor of National Journal and The Atlantic
  • Rev. Matt Malone, S.J., editor-in-chief of America: The National Catholic Review
  • Dr. Mary Fainsod Katzenstein, Stephen and Evalyn Milman Professor of American Studies and professor in the Government Department and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Cornell University

 

3rd Annual Conference:  Race, Protest, and American Culture

March 28, 2015
Keynote speaker: Nicholas Meriwether, Founding Grateful Dead archivist, McHenry Library, University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC)
"Archiving the Counterculture and Raising the Dead: The Grateful Dead Archive and the Legacy of the Sixties"

 

2nd Annual 'Celebrating American Studies' Conference

Saturday, March 8, 2014
Keynote Speaker: Carla L. Peterson, University of Maryland, College Park
"Black Cosmopolitanism and the Reshaping of African American Local and National Identities (1830-1910) 

 

1st Annual 'Celebrating American' Studies Conference:

Sunday, April 21, 2013
From the Black Panthers and Nixon to Obama and the Tea Party: Interpretingthe "Post" of "Post-Civil Rights"
Keynote Speaker: Matthew Jacobson, President of the American Studies Association and the William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies and History at Yale University

Life After Fairfield

American Studies majors follow no single path after graduation. Many go on to medical school and doctoral programs in literature and political science, while other pre-law students who have majored in American Studies have earned admission to such law schools as:

  • Cornell
  • Georgetown
  • American University
  • Duke
  • Fordham
  • Universitiy of Arizona
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of Pennsylvania

Other recent graduates have gone on to careers in:

  • Theater
  • Cable television
  • Banking
  • Market research
  • Investment banking
  • Education
  • Journalism

Learn more about how Fairfield's Career Planning Center can support your post-graduate goals, and how Fairfield's tight-knit alumni network can build career and mentoring opportunities that last a lifetime.

Mission Statement & Learning Objectives

The American Studies program at Fairfield University engages students in the idea of America as it has been culturally imagined and contested throughout history, both within and beyond U.S. national borders. As part of this engagement, the program explores the idea of America within cultural contexts such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, legal status, environment, and class. At the same time, the program challenges students to think about the processes by which these contexts have shaped America and its identities. Students also consider their own place, engagement, and responsibilities as participants in the unfolding narratives of America within a global context.

An interdisciplinary course of study, the program draws from a wide range of courses in the arts, humanities, and social sciences to help students develop the ability to read America, in all its rich and dynamic manifestations. As part of Fairfield University’s mission, the American Studies program seeks to develop students’ unique abilities and potential and to cultivate a broader commitment to social justice through their exploration of American culture.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Students will engage the idea of America by framing questions for research and inquiry
  2. Students will distinguish, summarize, and synthesize the idea of America through the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, legal status, environment, and class.
  3. Students will critically analyze and interpret cultural artifacts using interdisciplinary theories and methodologies, and discipline-specific knowledge.
  4. Students will construct oral arguments and generate debate as they evaluate the processes that shape and reshape America and its identities.
  5. Students will write informed, critical essays and larger research papers.
  6. Students will examine and interpret their own places, engagement, and responsibilities in the unfolding narratives of America, within a global context.
  7. Students will produce a final culminating project appropriate to the undergraduate and graduate curricula.

The American Studies Workshop for Teachers

The American Studies Workshop for Teachers, a partnership initiative of the Humanities Institute, brings together secondary education teachers and Fairfield University faculty to explore the dynamic and interdisciplinary field of American Studies. Our expert faculty offers a wide range of collaborative, 1-2 hour workshops covering an array of historical subject matter from Women’s Rights, slavery, and religious freedom, to pop music, American art, and the 20th century space race.

Faculty

‌‌The College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University is home to a vibrant community of engaged faculty, dedicated staff and budding scholars devoted to the process of invention and discovery and excited by the prospect of producing knowledge in the service of others. Meet the dedicated members of our American Studies Program.

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