American studies is a flexible degree program that allows students to study American culture and society from an interdisciplinary perspective. American studies is unique in its efforts to combine distinct fields of inquiry; it investigates, for example, where history merges with literature or where art intersects with anthropology. The major encourages independence and individuality as it offers students a unique opportunity to structure their own education and to take advantage of the resources of multiple departments at Lafayette.

An American studies major consists of nine courses, at least three of which are core American studies courses. Majors are required to take the introductory course, AMS 150, and a topical seminar, AMS 362, such as Photography in American Culture, American Indians in American Culture, or Nature in American Culture. As seniors, majors take an intensive research seminar, AMS 363, in which they write a lengthy paper on a subject of their choice. Beyond the three required core courses, all majors take six 200- and 300-level courses that focus on an interdisciplinary theme or concentration of the student’s choice.

Students are invited to double major in American studies and another field of study. Current AMS double majors include students also majoring in government and law, English, psychology, art, economics and business, and geology.


To engage in interdisciplinary work students must begin by taking foundational courses in several important disciplines. By the end of the sophomore year, American Studies 150 should be completed, along with introductory courses in at least three of the following areas:

If you do not already have a good background in American history, it is highly recommended that you take HIST 108 and 109, Survey of American History. In addition, A&S 210 Contemporary American Society and ENG 212 American Literature and Its Backgrounds are recommended for all majors. As noted above, students are strongly encouraged to take more than one AMS 362 topics seminar.


All American studies majors must take the following three core AMS courses:

  1. AMS 150 Introduction to American Studies: A broad introduction to American studies as a discipline, this course must be taken as a first-year student or as a sophomore. The class is closed to juniors and seniors. AMS 150 is offered in both fall and spring semesters.
  2. AMS 362 Seminar in American Studies: This topic seminar, which is offered in both fall and spring semesters, must be taken by the end of the junior year. Topics vary from semester to semester. Recent ones have included “Photography and Memory in American Culture,” “American Censored,” “Indians in American Culture,” “The American 1950s,” and “Inventing America.” Students are strongly encouraged to complete more than one AMS 362 as part of their course of study.
  3. AMS 363 Senior Research Seminar in American Studies: This capstone research seminar, which is offered only in the fall term, must be taken in the senior year. It provides a supportive, coordinated structure for students’ independent work on a major project or paper. The purpose of the seminar is to allow students to do in-depth, interdisciplinary work on a topic of their own choosing and to integrate the courses they have taken.


In addition to the three required American studies courses, students must take six 200- and 300-level courses that focus on a thematic concentration relating to American history, society, or culture. The thematic concentrations bring together courses in different departments on a common subject. The themes of concentration:

  • Social Justice in America
  • Popular and “High” Culture in America
  • Business, Work, and Society in America
  • Place in America
  • Independently designed concentration

Individuals with questions about the AMS major should contact Professor Mary Jo Lodge, chair of American studies,

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