American Studies

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Mission

The American Studies major offers interdisciplinary study of the cultures of the United States, their histories, politics, life worlds and styles of being. The curriculum draws on and integrates the methods and findings of a variety of academic disciplines that focus on the United States. Core requirements introduce majors to courses on the literature, history, and politics of the U.S. and provide them with skills needed for interdisciplinary study. Electives, which take advantage of the wealth of Americanist scholarship at Muhlenberg, include courses in ethnic studies, law, the built environment, business, religion, and many other fields. Many majors study for a semester at Muhlenberg’s Washington, D.C. program, where they work as interns in a variety of government agencies.

The American Studies major is also designed to help students understand the presence of the United States in a larger, world context. Just as the field of American Studies in general has expanded its scope in recent years to acknowledge the transnational effects of globalization, so too has Muhlenberg’s program. With globalization, American national boundaries, like those of other nations, have become porous, and influences of all kinds, for good and ill, circulate from one nation to another with increasing rapidity. American Studies has thus come to include study of the interactions and mutual influences between the U.S. and other countries, particularly those of the Western Hemisphere. American Studies majors are encouraged to include among their electives choices courses that engage these relationships between the U.S. and other parts of the world. In addition, we invite students to study abroad in order to pursue American Studies from the point of view of other cultures.

While students are encouraged to shape an area of concentration that allows them to pursue the particular fields that interest them, the major also makes it possible for students to concentrate instead on particular themes or features of cultural history and to study them from the perspectives of as many disciplines as they wish.

The American Studies major has prepared many of our students for graduate work in law, literature, history, and social sciences. Our graduates have also gone to work in the political sphere in Washington, D.C., in education, in publishing, business, and a number of other areas. With their solid foundations in U.S. history, literature, and politics and their capacity for interdisciplinary vision, American Studies majors leave Muhlenberg well prepared to contribute in interesting and productive ways to the society, in whatever professional fields they pursue.