BA in American Studies

The American & New England Studies Program (AMNESP) offers an intellectually diverse, flexible, student-centered major in American Studies that explores the richness of the American experience within national and global contexts. By drawing upon a variety of intellectual traditions, students learn to understand and interpret disparate American cultures as they are expressed in a range of forms: from seventeenth century buildings to electronic media and from fine art to patterns of political engagement. Majors work with renowned and wide-ranging faculty, located across departments and schools, to tailor their own interdisciplinary course of study to individual interests and goals. Scholarly undertakings might involve analyzing blues lyrics or interpreting beauty pageants, commenting on professional sports or critiquing twentieth-century pulp fiction; but no matter what the project or specific set of classes, students learn to evaluate evidence, structure arguments, and think critically about the world around them. The skills and knowledge gained in the major can help students interested in careers in journalism, education, law, communications, business, and other fields.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge of the US experience—from a historical and cultural perspective and with an awareness of the global context.
  • Utilize an interdisciplinary approach in advancing an original argument, interpretation, or critique, within the field of American Studies.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in researching a suitably broad range of sourcesboth primary and secondaryand analyze them appropriately within the relevant disciplinary discourse.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in both written and oral presentations that reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the field.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in American Studies will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Historical Interpretation; Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship; and most of the requirements in Communication and the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

American Studies majors will also satisfy College of Arts & Sciences requirements, described here.

A major in American Studies requires the completion of 10 4-credit courses, approved by the program, with a grade of C or higher in each course. To complete this major, students must fulfill the following requirements:

Core Courses

All majors must take two core courses:

  • CAS AM 200 Introduction to American Studies
  • One CAS AM course at the 200 level or above

These courses acquaint students with the critical problems and methods of American Studies. They stress the analysis of key configurations of ideas, values, and institutions that define specific periods of the American past and present and find expression in folklore, art, material culture, literature, politics, and mass media.

Disciplinary Courses

Students majoring in American Studies must take a total of seven CAS courses in addition to the core courses:

  • Five of these courses must be taken in AM or affiliated disciplines. Affiliated disciplines include African American studies, anthropology, archaeology, earth & environment, economics, English, history, history of art & architecture, philosophy, political science, religion, sociology, and women’s, gender & sexuality studies. Courses must be chosen in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies to create an intellectually coherent plan built around a discipline or field (such as history or African American studies), or an interdisciplinary concentration, such as queer studies, sustainability, or material culture.
  • In order to provide a global or transnational context for American Studies, two additional courses must be taken that explore geographical areas outside the United States. Students may fulfill this requirement through upper-level foreign language or literature courses (300 or above), and the requirement may be fulfilled during study abroad. Selection of these courses must be reviewed and approved by the director of undergraduate studies.

Senior Project

Majors complete their program of study by undertaking a one- or two-semester senior project. The senior project may take the form of a research seminar (CAS AM 501 or AM 502) or an individual Directed Study leading to a senior thesis based on original research or criticism (CAS AM 491 or AM 492). Advanced research projects undertaken in the senior year as part of other 400- or 500-level courses may also qualify as capstones, subject to the approval of the director of undergraduate studies. In lieu of a senior project, qualified seniors may undertake a two-semester honors thesis (CAS AM 401 and AM 402), to be evaluated by the supervising faculty and director of undergraduate studies.

Recommended Minors

Students with a major in American Studies are encouraged to consider minors in affiliated departments in CAS or in other schools and colleges. Recommended areas of minors include visual arts, theatre arts, journalism, and communication.