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Why I Majored in American Studies

Rachel Brownell '15

The American Studies major is distinct in its interdisciplinary nature. While the focus on the United States coheres much of the content involved, courses in virtually any department within the humanities and social sciences satisfy the major’s requirements. This setup allows American Studies students to take a great diversity of classes from History to Psychology to Music and many more, all the while taking steps towards earning their major. With such variety students are not required to specialize too deeply too soon and are very unlikely to ever get tired or bored of their major.

There are certainly some specific classes required on the ground level, such as the yearly American Studies seminar, usually beginning the student’s sophomore year. Even these courses, though, reflect the multi-faceted nature of an American Studies college experience since different professors from different disciplines teach them each year (rather than a set American Studies faculty, professors from preexisting departments become affiliates), constantly renewing the focus and style of the seminar. The reading and coursework itself also covers a huge range of cultural, political, and social phenomena from within the United States, as well as its relationship to other countries today and throughout history in the global network. One reading, for example, may focus on the American attitude towards the Vietnam War decades after the fact, but not through merely one lens: historical precedent, the psychology of a nation, literary analysis, media studies, etc.—all these approaches are considered not only useful, but also necessary, to a piece of American Studies scholarship on such a topic.