AMS 210 Concepts in American Studies


In this course, students will study the development of American studies, the interdisciplinary study of American culture, as an academic field, with a special focus on its interdisciplinary methods. They will also use this knowledge in practical application to various aspects of American culture throughout history. Through fiction, films, visual and popular culture, historical documents and critical readings, students will learn to critically analyze various aspects of American culture, both within and outside the United States in ways that will complement their established disciplinary interests.


Doctorow, E.L. Ragtime

Hefner, Richard. A Documentary History of the United States

Maddox, Lucy (ed). Locating American Studies: The Evolution of a Discipline


Homework: This assignment provides students with an opportunity to identify and disciplinary approaches. Students upload a link of their own choosing related to the day’s reading and use a disciplinary approach to interpret it. It can be a link to a video clip, image, ad, text, object, etc. The class will use the links as part of the day’s discussion. Graded on a credit/no credit basis.

Analysis Papers: This assignment allows students to apply multiple disciplinary approaches to various aspects of American culture. Each student will apply a disciplinary approach a novel, film or visual culture.

  • For the first two critical reviews, students will focus on one disciplinary approach applied to one “text.” These are no more than two pages each. (5% each)
  • For the third critical review, students will use two disciplinary approaches. These are no longer than three pages each. (10%)

Digital Documentary: This assignment provides an opportunity for students to apply multiple disciplinary approaches and use interdisciplinary methods in critical writing. Each student will create a documentary-style Digital Story in PhotoStory based on a topic of his/her own choosing. Each digital story must: 1) cover material from a historical span and 2) incorporate strategies from at least two disciplines. The instructor will identify the best three projects, which will be placed on the instructor’s website. It has several parts:

  • Thesis Paragraph and Outline: Students will construct a thesis paragraph, which will include an analytical thesis, as well as an outline that covers the major points to be developed by the script. (20%)
  • Annotated Bibliography: An annotated bibliography entry consists of two parts: the citation and the annotation, or the description of the source. An annotated bibliography allows students to determine the best sources for their topic by articulating the source’s thesis, the supporting points of the thesis, and the usefulness, or relevance of that source. It allows students to easily access key points for later use in their major project. (10%)
  • Digital Documentary +Companion Essay for Documentary (30%)
    • Digital Documentary: The digital story itself.
    • Companion Essay: An essay that provides in-depth analysis of documentary material in the digital story.

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