Completing a degree in American Studies involves learning basic theories and methods that can be used to better understand and interpret texts. American Studies takes the same approaches to dealing with literary works, cultural artefacts and historical contexts as other fields of cultural studies.
The focus of American Studies is the literature and culture of North America. It begins with the cultures of the European colonial powers involved in the discovery and settlement of the North American continent and the history of Native Americans, and ends in the present with the cultural phenomena that have shaped the post 9/11 era. American literature and culture are characterized by certain recurring topics and themes which can be traced back to particular circumstances in the cultural history of the United States. These themes include a self-view as God’s chosen people (due to Puritan traditions), patricidal fantasy (historically rooted in the breaking away of the American colonies from the English crown) and the myth of the frontier, the imaginary border between wilderness and civilization (“America equals the West”). In light of the recent internationalization of American Studies, we incorporate interdisciplinary and transcultural impulses known as “New American Studies” into our program.
Lectures and seminars covering particular epochs or special topics in American literature constitute the core of our course offerings- The focus is not only on the canon of established texts, but also on the literature of specific regional, ethnic and social cultures.
We also offer courses which explore the interesting realm of popular culture by tracing its development and examining its various forms. The focus of American Studies is thus not only on literature, but also on non-literary media such as film, television, music and computer games. See also “Research”.