AMS 201 Introduction to American Studies
A multi-disciplinary approach to the study of American culture and society.
Our American studies program is one of the strongest in the country, and every year it is among the top majors at Connecticut College. We focus on two critical issues: race and ethnicity and the role of the United States in the world. The program is innovative, dynamic and interdisciplinary. After you complete the core requirements for the major, you have the opportunity to concentrate on comparative race and ethnicity; expressive arts and cultural studies; or politics, society and policy. You also participate in community service, fieldwork or an internship. Our graduates are shaping thinking about critical issues in government and non-governmental organizations, and in graduate studies and academia.
You shape your own experience through the courses you choose, as well as through your honors or independent study project. Student research topics have included the representation of adolescent sexuality on reality television and its impact on behavior, a critical look at dolls created for young girls in America, and a comparison of religious tolerance in France and the United States.
American studies majors have examined the role of American culture in the de-Nazification of Germany as well as the impact of Eastern European training methods on American sports. A course on immigration took students to the Texas/ Mexico border, where they lived with local families. Our civil rights seminar has traveled to important locations of the African-American freedom movement.
David A. Canton, associate professor of history, was appointed Interim Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion in June 2015, after serving as a Co-Interim Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion in April and May 2015.
Jim Downs is currently an Andrew W. Mellon New Directions Fellow at Harvard University, where he is gaining training in medical anthropology. While at Harvard, Downs will also be a fellow at The Weatherhead Initiative on Global History. Downs is a historian of the United States. His research examines the history of race and medicine in the 19th century. He recently published Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction (Oxford University Press, 2012), which tells the largely unknown story of how many former slaves died at the moment of freedom.
David Kyuman Kim has written on freedom and agency in modernity and post-modernity, Asian American diasporas, and the Asian American religious experience.
Jen's book, Liberty's Prisoners: Carceral Culture in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015) shows the connections between the establishment of democracy, the abolition of slavery, and the expansion of the penal state and the implications for racialized and gendered ideologies of freedom, resistance, and dependency.
As an English professor, Julie Rivkin works on American literature and literary theory, and recently turned her attention to issues raised by gender studies and contemporary literature. She is probably best known for her work on Henry James: her book False Positions: The Representational Logics of Henry James's Fiction (Stanford University Press, 1996) offers approachable yet theoretical readings of James's novels.
Cathy Stock is the author of Rural Radicals: Righteous Indignation in the American Grain (Penguin, 1997). She is also the author of Main Street Crisis: The Great Depression and the Old Middle Class on the Northern Plains, plus the introduction to Dakota Territory, 1861-1889: A Study of Frontier Politics, by Howard Roberts Lamar.
American studies, dance
A: Like most freshmen, my interests were all over the place. But I was interested in the experience and history of people. I also wanted to nurture my interest in art, culture and gender studies. A friend suggested I look into American Studies. I took the intro class with Professor [James] Downs and was hooked.
A: The "19th Century America" seminar. We read an entire book each week, developed an analytical argument and wrote a short response paper. Crafting an insightful and organized analysis was by no means easy, but it was so rewarding. The nine of us in class met weekly for an exhausting and thrilling three hours led by Professor Downs that strengthened my skills as a historian, writer and thinker.
A: A ConnSSHARP grant gave me the opportunity to work with Professor Downs on his book about cholera, epidemiology and transnationalism in the 19th century. I spent the summer analyzing documents in the NY Public Library and the NY Academy of Medicine, and met with Professor Downs regularly to discuss my findings. I gained invaluable insight into the research process and what it means to be a historian as I move ahead with my own honors thesis: Domestic Kitchens in 19th Century America.