Requirements: American Studies


The American Studies Program provides a broad framework for the exploration of the people, places, societies and cultures of the United States and other regions of the world known as the Americas. It encourages students to explore issues of "American" identity and culture from both within and outside the American continents. As an interdisciplinary field, American studies accomplishes this by employing complementary theories, ideas and methodologies from multiple disciplines to create a comprehensive, holistic understanding of what "America" is as well as what it means to be "American." The program trains its students to see and analyze America through the lens of cultural artifacts and emphasizes exploration through fieldwork research experiences, collaborative community partnerships, public presentation and peer evaluation.

The American Studies Program, while providing flexibility and independence in course selection, nonetheless requires students to be intellectually curious, inventive and academically disciplined in the development and articulation of their topical or thematic focus as reflected in their six-course plan detailing the field of concentration within their major course of study.

The Kenyon College faculty voted to change from Kenyon units to semester hours. This change will go into effect for all students who start at the College in the fall of 2024. Both systems will be used throughout the course catalog with the Kenyon units being listed first.


Requirements for the Major

The major in American studies requires students to successfully complete 12 courses:

AMST 108 Introduction to American Studies

All majors take an introductory course in American studies. This course is normally taken during the first or second year at Kenyon. In lieu of the Introductory course, titled and numbered as such, majors may substitute a first-year seminar or another such course when approved by the chair of the program.

Four diversification courses 

Two courses must be from history:
AMST 101D/HIST 101D: U.S. History, 1492–1865*
AMST 102D/HIST 102D: U.S. History, 1865 to Present*
HIST 120: Early Latin America*
HIST 121: Modern Latin America*
HIST 175: Early Black History*
HIST 176: Contemporary Black History*
HIST 205: Hard Times: The Great Depression*
HIST 208: U.S. Women's History*
HIST 209: History of North American Indians*
HIST 215: Reel or Real, History and Film*
HIST 218: History of Mexico*
HIST 242: Americans in Africa*
HIST 275: World War II*
HIST 307: Great African American Migration: 1900–1970
HIST 310: The Civil War*
HIST 311: Immigrant Experience in the United States*
HIST 312: Blacks in the Age of Jim Crow*
HIST 313: Black Intellectuals*
HIST 314: U.S. Foreign Policy, 1898 to the Present*
HIST 321: The Mexican Revolution: Origins, Struggles and Significance *
HIST 322: Human Rights in Latin America*
HIST 323: Borderland History*
HIST 325: History of North American Capitalism*
HIST 360: Corn, Farming and the Roots of American Cultures*
HIST 373: Women of the Atlantic World*
HIST 375: American Indian Activism and Red Power*
HIST 380: Black History through Fiction and Film*
HIST 400: American Revolution*
HIST 407: Manhood/Masculinity in U.S. History*
HIST 411: The Civil Rights Era*
HIST 412: Race, Politics and Public Policy*
HIST 426: Fight For The Great Lakes, 1492–1815*

AP U.S. history credit may be used to satisfy one of the two courses and must be paired with a second American history course. Examples are marked by an asterisk.

Two courses must be from politics, culture and society; examples include:
AMST 200D/PSCI 200D: Liberal Democracy in America
AMST 209: American Visual Culture
AMST 227D/ARHS 227D: American Art to 1900
AMST 302D/MUSC 302D: The History of Jazz
AMST 314: The History of American College and University Architecture
AMST 330: Sankofa Project: Theory and Practice of Urban Education
AMST 331: Visions of "America" from Abroad
AMST 350: Religion in American Popular Culture
ARHS 229: Race and Modern Art
ARHS 231: Cold War Modern Art
ARHS 245: Contemporary Art and Society
ECON 343: Money and Financial Markets
ECON 347: Economics of the Public Sector
ECON 358: The Federal Reserve System
ECON 383: American Economic History
ENGL 273: Latino/Latina Literature and Film
ENGL 274: Hope and Hate: Reading Race and Reconstruction
ENGL 280: American Literary Modernism
ENGL 283: Unlearning Native America
ENGL 286: Transgressive Friendships in American Literature
ENGL 288: African-American Literature
ENGL 373: 19th-Century U.S. Women Writers
ENGL 375: U.S. Fiction in the 19th Century: Domestic Sensations
ENGL 378: Race in the 19th-Century Literary Imagination
ENGL 379: Environmental Regionalism: Literatures of the Mississippi River Valley
ENGL 380: Early American Literatures
ENGL 381: Another America: Narratives of the Hemisphere
ENGL 385: Contemporary American Poetry
ENGL 386: Toni Morrison
ENGL 390: Black Women Writers
FILM 253: American Film Comedy
FILM 254: The Western
FILM 256: African American Film
PSCI 300: Congress and Public Policymaking
PSCI 301: The American Presidency
PSCI 302: Public Opinion and Voting Behavior
PSCI 303: Campaigns and Elections
PSCI 310: Public Policy
PSCI 313: Making U.S. Foreign Policy
PSCI 315: Gender and Politics in the U.S.
PSCI 328: American Constitutional Law I
PSCI 329: American Constitutional Law II
PSCI 355: Immigration, Citizenship and National Identity
PSCI 441: Latin American Politics in Film and Fiction
PSCI 442: Contemporary Latin American Politics
PSYC 328: Latino Psychology
RLST 130: Religion and Society in America (U.S.)
RLST 135: African Spirituality in the Americas
RLST 242: African American Religions
RLST 295: Islam in North America
RLST 312: God's Money: Charity, Philanthropy and the Poor
SOCY 101: Powers, Energies and Peoples
SOCY 104: Identity in American Society
SOCY 106: Social Issues and Cultural Intersections
SOCY 107: Institutions and Inequalities
SOCY 226: Sociology of Law
SOCY 229: Social Movements
SOCY 236: Popular Culture: Window on Inequality
SOCY 238: Environmental Sociology
SOCY 240: Sociology of Crime and Deviance
SOCY 244: Race, Ethnicity and American Law
SOCY 255: Women, Crime and Law
SOCY 277: Sociology of Sexualities
SOCY 385: Du Boisian Sociology
SOCY 422: Topics in Social Stratification
SOCY 424: Vigilantism and the Law

American studies at Kenyon views America in its broadest sense. Thus, it is recommended that students choose one course from a group of courses that examine America beyond the confines of the United States. For example, see Latino/a studies

Six courses of elective study 

Six courses from a single area, discipline or set of disciplines that form a coherent program in American studies. A required major areas form (PDF) must be completed and submitted to the Registrar's Office, indicating the courses for elective study. Examples of such areas:

  • Writing and literature
  • Race and ethnicity
  • History and society
  • Politics and economics
  • African American studies
  • Women's studies
  • Law and society
  • Landscape and the environment
  • America in a global context
  • Visual arts
  • Sex, gender and sexualities
  • Latin American studies
  • Education studies

Many other areas of focus are possible. The American studies major highly recommends a course in advanced theory or methodology, feminist criticism, or intersection theory that could inform the student's major focus. The elective study program undertaken by the student requires approval of the chair of the American Studies Program. At least two courses must be at the 300 or 400 level.

As in many interdisciplinary programs that offer a relatively limited number of cognate courses each year, the majority of courses taken to satisfy the requirements are offered through one or more contributing majors and programs at the College. The division or department in which the courses are offered isn’t important; whether the course counts depends solely upon whether there is sufficient content about “American” identity, culture or experience to justify its inclusion. Similarly, courses taken while studying off-campus must meet this threshold. There is no limit on the number of such courses that can be considered. The program encourages its students to study abroad and recommends that students take courses that explore and reflect upon America through international and global perspectives.

AMST 400 Senior Seminar in American Studies

This one-semester advanced seminar is taken during either fall or spring of the senior year. The "Senior Seminar" may be thematic or focus upon methodologies; it typically entails individual research and public presentation.

The Senior Capstone

The Senior Capstone in American studies may take several forms, but it must draw on the elective-study component of the major. Students must identify and then develop, through original research and creative presentation, a major theme central to their work in American studies. By the final Friday in September, majors in American studies present their plans for the Senior Capstone to their advisors and to the program chair.

AMST 401 (The Senior Colloquium in American Studies) is taught spring semester, and all senior majors are required to take it in the years when it is offered. In addition to promoting guided reflection on the students' journey through the major, the course is designed and intended to encourage students to workshop ideas and give feedback to one another on their final projects. This course is a 0.25-credit/no credit offering. The "Senior Seminar" and "Senior Colloquium" may be offered in alternating years; seniors must take the colloquium in lieu of the "Senior Seminar" in the years when only the colloquium is offered.

The capstone itself will have three parts:

  • A presentation (visual, oral, electronic) to the College public, including majors and faculty in American studies along with a substantial annotated bibliography of sources discovered and utilized in constructing the presentation
  • A 10-page written reflection paper that includes analysis, explanation and documentation of the work presented as well as its relationship to the student's American studies major
  • An oral response to the audience's questions and comments following the presentation

The Senior Capstone is presented no later than the last Friday in April. Any student who does not successfully complete the capstone must submit a 20-page research paper and bibliography by the first day of exams.


AMST 497Y-498Y (Honors in American Studies) entails a two-semester, one-unit sequence of independent work integral to the elective-study program in the major, taken during the senior year. The program results in an honors project that may take a variety of forms but includes a written component, a public presentation or performance, and an oral interview with an external examiner. Students with an overall GPA of 3.33 and a GPA of 3.5 in the major by the end of the second semester of their third year become eligible to submit a proposal to pursue honors, but grade-point averages that meet these thresholds are not sufficient alone for admission to the Honors Program. For acceptance into the Honors Program, students must be nominated by an American studies faculty member. After the recommendation, a formal proposal containing a statement of intent, a tentative bibliography and a project outline must be sent to the project advisor and the chair of the American Studies Program for approval by April 1. The faculty teaching in the program will consider each application and decide whether to allow a student to pursue honors.

Requirements for the Concentration

The American Studies Concentration encompasses six courses of work, consisting of three components:

  • One introductory course, AMST 108 Introduction to American Studies
  • Four courses in curricular options 
  • Senior Seminar or Senior Colloquium

Students may choose among several pathways that fulfill the curricular options requirement. To obtain a list of specific courses that fall under these categories, students should consult the chair of the American Studies Program.

Public presentation on a research topic is a key element of the American Studies Program. Thus, senior concentrators are expected to participate in the oral presentation component of the Senior Seminar or Senior Colloquium. Courses required for a student's major cannot count toward completion of the American Studies concentration requirements. 

Students who are considering the concentration should consult with the chair of American studies before enrolling in courses.