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Planning Your American Studies Minor

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How Do I Get Started?

In fact, you may have already started. That is, you may have already enrolled in one or more courses which you might be able to “grandfather” into the minor. See the list under Courses. We now offer an interdisciplinary "Introduction to American Studies" course (ENGL 2277). This is now a required course for students declaring the minor after October 28, 2014.

To officially register for the minor, either email the Program Director at or call 617-552-3191.

The Overall Plan

Like other minors, American Studies consists of six courses.  There are two required courses:  1) ENGL 2277, the Introduction to American Studies, which you can take anytime before graduation (it's not a prerequisite for taking other courses in the minor​), and​ 2) the senior seminar, taken in the fall of senior year.  ​(For those who declared the minor before October 28, 2014, the senior seminar is the only required course.)  Five of the six courses counting toward the minor must come from departments outside your major, and from at least two different departments. Three of your five other courses leading up to the senior seminar must be clustered around a common theme in an area of concentration (see below), while the remaining course (or two courses, for those declaring the minor before October 28, 2014) just must qualify for cross listing in American Studies. The courses listed on this website are merely a sample of offerings; in any given year there will be other courses offered by various departments that may qualify. Check with Professor Rotella.

Note: Only one course that satisfies the core requirement can be counted for the minor; in addition, if the senior seminar for your final year is offered by your major department, it can be counted for your minor, but not for your major as well.

Areas of Concentration

By your junior year, at the latest, you should start to select three courses from your total that can be clustered around a common theme, your area of concentration. Usually it means choosing one or two courses you’ve already taken, and then adding one or two to make a thematic concentration. These are the most common themes, which conform to the program's strengths:

  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Gender, Sexuality and culture
  • Cultures of Cities
  • Society and Subcultures
  • Popular Culture and Media
  • Law, Politics and Culture
  • America and the World
  • Journalism

Many other areas of concentration are possible. If you want to pursue one that's not on the list above, you'll need to have it approved by Professor Rotella.

New Concentration in Journalism

The American Studies Program offers a slate of journalism courses with JOUR ("journalism") numbers. They include, for example, JOUR 2230, News Writing; JOUR 2231, Feature Writing; JOUR 2227, Broadcast Writing; JOUR 2229, Introduction to Magazine Writing; JOUR 2234, News Ethics; JOUR 2233, Advanced Journalism; JOUR 2225, Journalism and New Media. These are workshop-sized courses taught by experienced journalists, emphasizing hands-on professional knowledge and training. They are open to students in all majors and schools, and you do not need to minor in American Studies to take them, but American Studies minors with an area of concentration within the minor other than journalism can count one of these JOUR-numbered journalism courses toward the minor, and American Studies minors who declare journalism as their area of concentration within the minor can count up to three of these courses toward the minor.

The Senior Seminar

In the fall of your senior year, you must enroll in the course designated as the American Studies Senior Seminar. The topic of the seminar, an interdisciplinary course housed in one of the major cooperating departments, varies every year. For Fall 2014, the seminar will be taught by Min Song of the English Department. The course is required for completion of the minor; admissions will be by permission of the instructor or the director of the American Studies Program.

ENGL 5513.01 American Studies Senior Seminar: after 9/11

Even after more than a decade, 9/11 continues to loom large as both a marker and a shaper of our shared present. It provided the occasion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and another war against terror itself. It made us more security conscious, which has in turn legitimated greater surveillance, extrajudicial detention, “enhanced” interrogation, and the use of drones for targeted assassinations. It infiltrated the way we tell stories, from novels to movies to television shows. And, just as importantly, it constrains attention to other major public events that call just as urgently for different kinds of responses, from Hurricane Katrina to the meltdown of the housing market and the slow-forming catastrophe of climate change. By exploring a rich mix of material, such as novels, films, nonfictional works, policy documents, and so forth, we will start with the collapse of the World Trade Center and think our way to a future that continues to be marked by this event.

Recommended Course: ENGL 2277 Intro to American Studies

Introduction to American Studies (ENGL 2277) offers an introduction to topics, approaches, and methods in the field of American Studies. This course is now required in order to minor in American Studies.  ​Although you can take ​ENGL 2277 ​any time before graduation (it's not a prerequisite for taking other courses in the minor​), if you are considering registering for the minor you are strongly urged to take it as soon as is possible. (It also remains strongly recommended, but not required, for students who registered for the minor under the old requirement rules, before October 28, 2014.)  Some seats will be set aside for American Studies minors; if you can't get into the course by registering online, you can secure them by permission of the instructor.