American Studies Program

202 Mather House
Phone: 216-368-5413
Renée M. Sentilles, Director


The American Studies program is designed to give students the flexibility to cross traditional intellectual boundaries in order to develop perspectives on American life that are more expansive and critical than those normally found within the limits of a single discipline. The interdisciplinary approach makes available a wide variety of materials, methods, theories, and themes to use as tools to investigate the complexities of the American past and present. The process of investigation is as important as the outcome, for it teaches students to analyze with breadth as well as depth, to think creatively as well as critically.

American Studies will enrich any primary major and offers interdepartmental concentrations to students with interests in areas such as Women’s Studies. Students will take required core courses and work with the director to select elective courses and create their own approach to the major.

What can you do with a degree in American Studies? Just about anything. The interdisciplinary nature of American Studies encourages initiative and creative thinking, giving our majors an advantage in later life. American Studies provides excellent preparation for careers in a variety of fields, including but not limited to law, journalism, social work, museum studies, teaching, and communications.

Program Faculty

Renée M. Sentilles, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History

Henry Adams, Ph.D.

Professor of Art History and Art

Mary E. Davis, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Music

Robert Spadoni, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English

John Grabowski, Ph.D.
Krieger-Mueller Associate Professor in Applied History

Daniel Cohen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History

Daniel Goldmark, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Music

Undergraduate Programs


(30 credit hours)

Required courses (12 hours):

Elective Courses (18 hours):

In consultation with the program director, students are to choose 18 hours, making certain that these represent at least two disciplines, though no more than four; or courses may constitute at least two but no more than three areas of concentration. Areas of concentration may consist of courses from more than one department and may center on an issue or theme in American cultures.

Please note that any course in the College’s curriculum that focuses on the United States and its cultures is eligible to be counted towards the American Studies major, if approved by the program director.

Program Honors

The faculty nominate majors with a cumulative average of 3.85 in American Studies courses for program honors. Candidates present to the faculty a term paper or project of outstanding quality as the basis for the award of honors.


(15 credit hours)

A minor consists of five courses: AMST 117 and four electives that focus on a significant period, problem area, or aspect of American civilization. The rationale for selecting such a minor program, and its relation to the student’s career or intellectual interests, must be discussed with and approved by the minor advisor.

Course Descriptions

AMST 117. Introduction to American Studies (3)
This course is designed to introduce students to the interdisciplinary field of American Studies while also empowering them to use the tools and perspectives of several disciplines, such as history, literature, art history, and anthropology. This course aims to introduce students to the various disciplines that constitute American Studies while paying special attention to the ways in which these disciplines can work together to illuminate the study of American cultures, past and present. Students will combine different methodologies in the process of completing assignments designed to make use of a variety of University Circle institutions. For the purposes of this course, biography is treated as a constructed genre that comes in a variety of forms, including autobiography, biographical novels, oral histories, and film. The class will discuss how certain biographies have created archetypal American identities, and how gender/race/class/historical context, etc. have affected the writing and reading of biography and restructured notions of identity.
Offered as AMST 117 and HSTY 117.

AMST 270. American Art and Culture Before 1900 (3)
Survey of the development of American art from colonial times to the present which explores how art has expressed both American values and American anxieties. Painting is emphasized, but the course also considers architecture, the decorative arts, film, literature, and music.
Offered as AMST 270 and ARTH 270.

AMST 271. American Art and Culture: The Twentieth Century (3)
Survey of the development of American art from 1900 to the present (and the future) which will explore how art has expressed both American values and American anxieties. Painting will be emphasized, but the course will also consider architecture, the decorative arts, film, literature, and music.
Offered as AMST 271 and ARTH 271.

AMST 327. American Theater and Playwrights (3)
Designed to provide students an overview of the development of theater in the United States and to familiarize them with the work and themes of selected American playwrights.
Offered as AMST 327 and THTR 327.

AMST 390. Independent Study (1–3)

AMST 431. (3)