American Studies

Ph.D. Course Requirements

The Ph.D. program in American Studies provides students with rigorous training in the frameworks and methods of interdisciplinary work while allowing them the freedom to develop and follow their own academic interests and goals.

Graduate students design their own course of study within the guidelines set up by the department, working with faculty (in courses, preliminary examinations and as dissertation advisors) across the University, in addition to those based in American Studies.

During their first two years, graduate students seeking the Ph.D. in American Studies will take eight seminars; six reading courses; and two advising independent study courses. In the third year, students will receive credit for eight reading courses as they prepare for their preliminary exams and write their dissertation proposals.

  • Two required seminars

    1. AMST2010 (usually taken in Year 1): Students will be introduced to models of interdisciplinary scholarship and interdisciplinary methods. By interacting with a variety of disciplines, students build dynamic new approaches to their topics of study. The instructor of AMST2010, a member of the faculty appointed in the department of American Studies, will take into account the interests of first year students when designing the course and include foundational texts that might appear on field lists.
    2. AMST2520 (usually taken in Year 2): Students learn the contours of the field of American Studies; interdisciplinary pedagogy; and begin the conceptualization of their own intellectual interests as they develop their preliminary exam lists and prepare a draft of a syllabus. The syllabus will be submitted as part of the preliminary exam process and used as the basis for a course that students may teach in their third or fourth year.
  • Six other seminars (usually five in Year 1 and one in Year 2)

    Taken around the university, most seminars will feature small groups of students discussing texts, so Ph.D. students can hone reading, writing, discussion and analytical skills as well as understand the methods, historiography, and content of their fields. Other seminars might focus on proficiencies needed as students enter the academy or public humanities, including language, digital or publication skills. We expect that students will include at least three disciplines that are part of the American Studies project.

    At the end of these six seminars, students should have written at least three papers or prepared public projects (or a combination of the two) that could be revised for conference presentation, journal publication, inclusion in a dissertation, or become part of a public humanities portfolio and should choose their six seminars to ensure that happens.

    Students should consider how these papers/projects contribute to their development as scholars. 

  • Two advising independent studies (taken in Year 1, one in each semester)

    Taken with the Doctoral Advisor, these courses represent the individual and group advising done by the Doctoral Advisor with the first year students, in which students receive guidance on course selection, including:

    • Preparation of at least three papers or projects
    • Departmental expectations
    • Professionalization
    • Discussion of possible preliminary examination topics and advisors
    • Preparation of a summer reading list leading to preliminary exam field essays
    • Information on choosing a dissertation topic.
  • Fourteen reading courses (AMST2920)

    Taken with preliminary exam and dissertation advisors, these courses each include a schedule of meetings, agreed on by the student and the faculty members, designed to prepare the student to take examinations and write a dissertation proposal.

  • Language study

    The department encourages students to gain, enhance, or maintain expertise in more than one language. Students may replace one seminar (and as many reading courses as necessary) with language courses at any level. Those beginning a new language necessary for their scholarly work will need to spend at least one summer studying language. The department will assist in locating funding for such study.