American Studies

Students interested in American studies engage in an interdisciplinary approach to the study of American history, politics, literature, and culture.

Several core seminars on models, methods, and materials for interdisciplinary study, plus courses from other relevant disciplines, provide the groundwork for students to pursue theoretically informed, integrative research into their special interests.

Sample Student Project Titles

  • Austin Highway: Twilight of an American Main Street
  • Histories of Little Compton, Rhode Island
  • Nazis and Cowboys: A Comparison of Lebensraum and Manifest Destiny Ideologies
  • Buried Sunshine: Gender, Power, and Silence in the West Virginia Mine Wars
  • The Trotters of Boston: Fighting Jim Crow from "Freedom's Birthplace"
  • On 23rd Street: A Psychological Portrait of a Chinese American Family from Brooklyn
  • Musical Communities and Gentrification in Washington, D.C.

Sample First-Year Course

Reimagining American Literature and Identity
This class is an introduction to and expands conventional understandings of twentieth-century American literature. It focuses on representations of diverse American experiences. How would typical approaches to American literature change when we incorporate literature written by women, immigrants, and persons of color? How would we consider racial, national, gendered, and classed identities as part of American literature?

We will begin with short stories by Flannery O'Connor, Toni Morrison, Julia Alvarez, and Philip Roth that address these questions. Then we will read novels written by American immigrant and exile writers, such as Jamaica Kincaid, Jhumpa Lahiri, Manuel Puig, and Edwidge Danticat as well as mainstream Anglo- and African-American writers, such as John Updike and Colson Whitehead, to interrogate how these voices engage questions of nation, exile, home, and belonging. This course investigates and recasts what is American literature. It is also writing intensive and includes writing workshops.

Sample Courses at Hampshire

  • American Literary Landscapes
  • American Strings: Old Time and Bluegrass
  • American Voices, American Lives
  • Border Matters: Mexico and the United States
  • The Contested American Countryside
  • Directing Contemporary American Drama
  • Ecology of New England Old Growth Forests
  • Introduction to American Studies
  • The "Good War:" Interrogating the History of the Homefront During WWII
  • Mapping Jewish-American Generations
  • Media in a Time of War: WWII and U.S. Popular Culture
  • One Nation Indivisible: Federal Indian Law, Tribal Sovereignty, and Individual Rights
  • The Politics of the Second World War
  • Southern History and Literature
  • Southern Writers: A Sense of Place
  • This Land is Your Land: Land and Property in America
  • U.S. Labor History
  • U.S. Literature Between the Wars
  • U.S. Literature Since 1960
  • Women's Bodies, Women's Lives: Biocultural
  • Dialogues of Women's Health in America

Through the Consortium

  • The American Dream (AC)
  • Asian Pacific American Studies (AC)
  • Globalization and Culture in the U.S. (SC)
  • Methods in American Studies (SC)
  • Seminar in American Orientalisms (MHC)

Facilities and Resources

The Five College Center for Crossroads in the Study of the Americas

The Five College Center for Crossroads in the Study of the Americas (CISA) is dedicated to new teaching and scholarship on the Americas. Instead of adopting a north-south approach, CISA has developed a triangular model for its work, where the three sides are formed by the Old World (Africa, Asia, Europe), the polities of the New World, and the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

This conception of the Americas as a crossroads seeks to promote an awareness of the historical and material inter-relationality of citizenship, migration, diaspora, and nationhood. In addition to a series of public events, CISA hosts a seminar series open to all Five College faculty. CISA also sponsors an annual student symposium with a comparatist focus, held each spring, which gathers students from the Five College region together in order to share their work and ideas in a public forum.

The Five College Asian/Pacific/American Studies Certificate Program

The Five College Asian/Pacific/American Studies Certificate Program enables students to pursue concentrated study of the experiences of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the Americas. Through courses chosen in consultation with their campus program advisers, students can learn to appreciate Asian/Pacific/American (A/P/A) cultural and artistic expressions, understand and critique the racial formation of Asian/Pacific/Americans, and investigate how international conflicts, global economic systems, and ongoing migration affect A/P/A communities and individuals and their intersections with others.

Drawing upon diverse faculty, archival, and community-based resources, the Five College program in Asian/Pacific/American Studies encourages students not only to develop knowledge of the past experiences of Asian/Pacific/Americans, but also to act with responsible awareness of their present material conditions.